NFL Truths: Cam needs to ignore hype
They cheated me out of the US Open title with terrible line calls and officiating. The only thing that can cheer me up is your NFL Truths column.
Without further ado, let’s get to the Truths and nothing but the Truths:
10. Cam Newton’s record-setting debut is more curse than blessing.
That is not haterade. It is fact served up as a warning to the unwitting enablers rushing in to anoint Newton as the next Joe Montana.
Let’s not crown his ass. Let’s not stunt his growth, undermine his resolve to prove his critics wrong, drown him in a bubble of victimhood. Let’s not convince Killer Cam that he’s already arrived.
He hasn’t. It was just one game against the Arizona Cardinals. Yes, I watched it. As a Newton skeptic, I was blown away. His footwork, touch, poise, throwing motion and confidence all exceeded my wildest expectations. The kid can play on Sundays. In one afternoon, he made the comparisons to Tim Tebow seem absolutely asinine.
However, despite logging the greatest QB debut in NFL history, Newton did not stamp himself as a surefire NFL success story. In a 16-game marathon, Newton simply proved he belongs in the race. Having demonstrated the necessary tools to complete and win it, what stands between Newton and the finish line now is mental toughness, discipline and focus.
Can he ignore the voices in his head, the chorus of sycophants ready to tell him any criticism moving forward is jealousy and/or racism?
His 422-yard debut makes the next 15 games more difficult. He’s elevated expectations while simultaneously inspiring his supporters to ratchet up their desire to anoint and defend him.
There was absolutely no pressure on Cam Newton on Sunday. No one cared about the Panthers-Cardinals game. His performance in the preseason was so mundane and typical that, had Newton thrown for 175 yards, a TD and two INTs on Sunday, his debut would’ve been considered successful.
Now, however, Green Bay-Carolina is nearly as big as Michael Vick’s return to Atlanta and the Chargers’ trip to New England.
Trust me, the record-setting opening act was more curse than blessing.
Newton would be best served developing outside the spotlight, below the radar. Each week doesn’t need to be a referendum on his NFL future, a heated debate between his critics and supporters.
Again, he’s not Tim Tebow, a tight end with an awkward and slow throwing motion, a religious symbol with a flock of followers from his college days.
To my surprise, Newton has a chance to be the real deal if he can avoid getting caught up in the hype.
9. The biggest winner from Newton’s debut is Warren Moon, Newton’s mentor and adviser.
Let’s call Moon’s quarterback school/agency “Reach For The Moon.” I’m not trying to take anything away from Carolina’s coaches. Ron Rivera and his staff deserve credit for preparing Newton for Sunday.
But Moon deserves credit, as well. He believed in Newton from the start and has worked with him from the outset. Newton’s performance in the postgame news conference was just as impressive as his on-field performance.
Moon’s job is not done. Advising and mentoring Newton will be more difficult moving forward. But let’s remember, Newton just had a record-setting QB debut without the benefit of an offseason program. Because of the lockout, Moon’s assistance played an even bigger role in Newton’s development.
Warren Moon made a lot of money Sunday.
8. I applaud Carolina owner Jerry Richardson for suggesting to Newton that he avoid covering his arms and body in tattoos.
I won’t be upset if Newton ignores Richardson’s suggestion and spills a bucket of ink all over his 6-foot-5 frame. As the owner of the team and someone investing millions of dollars in a 22-year-old kid, Richardson has the right to suggest whatever he pleases. And Newton has the right to do whatever he wants that is legal.
I’m glad Richardson cared enough to express an opinion about tattoos. A clean-cut image will make Newton more commercially profitable. Richardson’s advice was intended to enhance Newton’s value.
7. Indianapolis’ 34-7 meltdown loss to the Houston Texans does not indisputably prove Peyton Manning was more valuable than Tom Brady the past decade.
It proves that Manning and general manager Bill Polian built an organization that was totally dependent on one man for its success. Had Manning never been installed as head coach, offensive coordinator and backup quarterback GM, the Colts wouldn’t be in their current predicament.
Why was Jim Caldwell allowed to replace Tony Dungy? So Manning could control the team. Why didn’t the Colts replace offensive coordinator Tom Moore? Because Manning ran the offense. Why was Curtis Painter the backup quarterback? No one knows.
Had the Colts fired Caldwell in January — as I suggested — and replaced him with Jon Gruden or some other legitimate head coach, the Colts would not have lost 34-7 on Sunday. The score probably would’ve been 34-21.
Without Manning, there’s an absence of leadership in Indianapolis. There’s enough talent to be competitive and win seven or eight games.
6. Yes, at some point I’m going to apologize to Mike and Kyle Shanahan for ripping them about Donovan McNabb.
My apology will have nothing to do with Rex Grossman’s 305-yard passing day and Washington’s victory over the Giants. The apology will focus on McNabb’s 39-yard debut in Purple.
We’ve never seen a quarterback fall off a cliff the way McNabb has the past two years. He blew a 17-7 halftime lead Sunday. Yes, he threw the ball only 15 times. But he had opportunities to make plays and put the game away.
In the fourth quarter, with the score tied 17-17, Bernard Berrian blew by a San Diego corner and was wide open for a long touchdown. McNabb underthrew Berrian, giving the defender a chance to catch up and harass Berrian as he tried to make the catch. It was an easy throw, the kind of long ball McNabb used to complete easily in his prime.
He can’t do it anymore. McNabb completed one pass for 2 yards in the second half.
What’s bizarre is, McNabb actually looked fit and fresh on Sunday. He scrambled with authority. He looked young. He’s mentally shot. He lacks confidence as a thrower. Maybe the Shanahans mentally abused him to the point he no longer has swagger. Maybe being rejected and dumped by Andy Reid sapped his mojo. Whatever the cause, McNabb is a shell of what he used to be.
It’s too bad because, with competent QB play, the Vikings could be dangerous.
5. Pittsburgh is my Super Bowl pick every year. Not this year.
Baltimore’s 35-7 beatdown of the Steelers was not a fluke. There are problems in Steel City. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice had their way with Pittsburgh’s defense.
I’m not going to argue Pitt’s defense is too old. For now, I’m going to argue the defense is unfocused. James Harrison has the Steelers locked in a feud with commissioner Roger Goodell rather than a feud with the Ravens.
Can Mike Tomlin get Pittsburgh focused on the right targets again, or is the coach caught up in Goodell hysteria, too?
4. The Chiefs might be the worst-coached, most unprepared team in quite a long time.
In his continued effort to establish himself as an outside-the-box-thinking genius, Todd Haley concocted a post-lockout scheme of using the preseason as a conditioning program rather than preparation for actual games.
When team president/general manager Scott Egoli figured out how bad Haley’s preseason plan was hurting season-ticket sales and put an end to the experiment, Haley overreacted and played his starters nearly the entire game in Kansas City’s final exhibition. The Chiefs still lost to the Packers, and Tony Moeaki, the team’s promising tight end, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Fast-forward to Sunday’s season opener. The clueless and direction-less Chiefs got pimp-slapped by the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium. In what was supposed to be the easiest game of the season, the Chiefs lost by 34 points at home.
KC has the worst defensive and offensive lines in the NFL. Protection for mediocre quarterback Matt Cassel is going to be a problem all year. Protection for linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali is going to be a problem all year.
The Chiefs are my leader in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes and a front-runner in the pursuit of Bill Cowher. Chiefs owner Clark Hunt can’t fill his newly renovated stadium with Todd Haley and Scott Egoli in control of the franchise.
3. The series finale of "Entourage" reminded me what it must be like being a Tony Romo/Cowboys fan.
I invested six or seven years following Vince, E, Johnny, Turtle and Ari, and the reward was a poorly written, poorly acted, rushed, totally contrived 30-minute movie trailer. That had to be the worst series finale in the history of television. Only idiots will go see the movie.
I’m sure that’s how Cowboys fans felt when Romo and the Cowboys puked all over themselves in the second half of Sunday’s game. Unlike "Entourage," Romo doesn’t deliver predictable happy endings. Romo is a total tease.
2. Has Kirk Herbstreit explained his asinine suggestion that Michigan settle for a field goal at the end of regulation?
The Wolverines had two timeouts with 8 seconds to play and Herbie wanted Brady Hoke to play for overtime against Notre Dame in the first night game at the Big House. Was Herbie looking for overtime pay from ESPN?
My Wolverines are far from national-title contenders. But Brady Hoke does not lack testicular courage. When given an opportunity to do the damn thang, Ball State boys get the damn thang done.
Yes, I’m a homer for Michigan. Do not look to me for objectivity on the Wolverines.
1. My Super Bowl pick: Ravens over Packers.
Ray-ven Lewis closes his career with another title and cements his legacy as the greatest middle linebacker of all time.