By Allan Erickson
Today, the Carolina Panthers will release one of the all-time greats in Cam Newton. Many fans are upset, while some feel it’s time to move on. Others, such as myself, wonder who will fill the void that Cam Newton did for the Carolina Panthers in years to come?
First and foremost, let me preface my article by stating that I am not someone who jumped on board in 2012, or 2003 when the Panthers went to their first Super Bowl. Born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, a member of the Pee Wee Panthers Pop Warner football team, I am someone who’s always had a love for the Panthers, since their inaugural season. I’ve been to over 100 home games at Bank Of America Stadium, and I’ve always been in awe. This team means something to me, and has for as long as I can remember.
Though the Panthers are a young franchise, they’re also a very storied franchise. All-time greats have dawned a Panther uniform. Reggie White, Kevin Greene, Steve Smith, Julius Peppers, Sam Mills, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, Muhsin Muhammad, Dan Morgan, Thomas Davis, Jordan Gross, Chris Gamble, Kris Jenkins, Mike Minter, Mike Rucker, Charles Johnson, Wesley Walls, Christian McCaffrey, etc. the Panthers have a laundry list of all-pro players. It’s a history that I’m proud to be a part of, and happy that the Panthers have been able to get these types of players and have some success.
Notice that I left someone off the list of great Panthers throughout the years? That wasn’t an accident. I’ve been around for every one of those players listed above, watched them all play in person and on screen, heard the roar of the crowd as their names were announced and they ran out of the tunnel. While these players are loved and appreciated, nobody had a louder ovation than Cam Newton. Nobody held the key to the city of Charlotte like Cam Newton. I think about all of those players and all of the Panther teams I’ve been lucky enough to see in person, and the truth is; nobody on any of those rosters could bring folks in the stadium to their feet quite like Cam. This is not a slight to any of the great players I just mentioned; it’s an appreciation for what Cam Newton brought to the Carolinas for the past nine years.
Cam was the most electrifying athlete most of us have ever seen in person, and Cam Newton was the first quarterback to be a triple threat. We’ve seen dual-threat quarterbacks. Warren Moon, and perhaps the best running quarterback we’ve ever seen, Mike Vick. The difference between Cam and Vick is simple- both could beat you with their arms, both could beat you with their legs, but Vick had to juke, had to run around you. This wasn’t the case for Cam Newton. If you were in his way, and he needed a first down, or a touchdown, he would run through you, flip over you, anything he could do to make it happen, he did it. The Panthers fan base didn’t appreciate Cam as much as they should have throughout his years, and now; it’s time to say goodbye.
Christian McCaffrey is now the face of the franchise, as the Panthers lost Greg Olsen, Luke Kuechly, James Bradberry, and now Cam Newton, this offseason. We all love CMC, we all appreciate his greatness and the work he puts in to help his teammates win games. With that being said, for those of us who watched Cam his entire time here, we know that CMC has huge shoes to fill if he’s going to get to the status of Cam Newton. There have been some truly great players for the Panthers. Statistically speaking, the Panthers have truly had some all-time greats. Julius Peppers ranks 3rd all time on the sacks list and 2nd in blocked field goals. Steve Smith was one of the best receivers of all-time and is top-10 in most statistical categories, despite the fact that he was 5’9 inches tall.
I don’t believe that Cam Newton is the greatest Panther of all-time. However I do believe that there will never be another Cameron Jerrell Newton. When we look back on the time that Cam spent here, the amount of children’s lives he touched when giving footballs away after touchdowns, the impact he had on his community, feeding Thanksgiving dinners to the less-fortunate every single year as a professional in Charlotte. Cam Newton will ALWAYS be a fan favorite. There will never be a player who gets a louder ovation, a player who has more jaw-dropping plays, a player who can win an MVP while throwing the ball to Ted Ginn, Philly Brown, and Devin Funchess, leading that team to a 15-1 record, and a Super Bowl appearance.
To the Carolina Panther fan base- however you choose to take this is up to you. “Well, we’re rebuilding, I get it.” Or “Cam would’ve given us a better chance to win than Teddy Bridgewater,” Or “there’s never a circumstance where the Panthers should’ve kicked Cam Newton out of Charlotte”, when you look back on your time with Cam Newton as your quarterback, you’re going to find a lot of smiles, a lot of wins, a lot of jaw-dropping plays from the quarterback position. And most importantly, you’re going to see a lot of fans happy with the way that man played football, the joy he brought to the stadium, the gifts he gave back to the community, and you’re going to realize that Cam Newton deserved more from this franchise. For all he did for Carolina, all he did for Charlotte, and all he did for his teammates, Cam Newton is a once-in-a-generation Carolina Panther, and this new regime of Tepper, Rhule, and others, should be ashamed of how they’re running this organization. Cam Newton deserved much better than they gave him.