There are two ways to view the fallout from Cam Newton’s tension-filled, early-exit media interview on Super Bowl Sunday, just moments after the Carolina Panthers fell to the Denver Broncos, 24-10.
The optimist (or unflappable Cam supporter) would rationalize that Newton simply didn’t feel like talking after Carolina’s ragged showing — surrendering four turnovers, allowing six sacks and committing 12 penalties for 102 yards.
They might even point to how Newton (310 total yards, zero TDs, 44 percent completion rate) didn’t want to say anything controversial following the gut-wrenching loss — knowing it would be replayed on TV forever — especially if the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner (Auburn) didn’t like the line of post-game questioning.
The pessimist, in turn, would characterize Newton as “selfish” or “immature” or a “front-runner,” or maybe even someone who showed their true colors in defeat, character-wise.
For me, such assessments aren’t so elementary. Yes, Newton should have publicly owned up to his foibles from Sunday. Yes, he should have donated more time to the media questions. And yes, he should have approached the postgame session with a better attitude, knowing the world would be watching.
But it’s like the old saying goes from NFL Films: Anyone who thought simply getting to the Super Bowl was the real achievement … never lost a Super Bowl.
My gut reaction to Newton’s presser can be broken down in two parts:
1) It was difficult to hear all the (off-microphone) questions coming Newton’s way, but the Super Bowl transcript suggests the queries were essentially boilerplate.
In other words, it didn’t sound like anyone had broached the Elephant In The Room question to Newton, asking about his effort (or lack thereof) on the 3rd and 9 turnover (below) with roughly four minutes left in the game … and Carolina trailing only 16-10.
On the play, Broncos linebacker Von Miller (the eventual Super Bowl MVP) knocked the ball out of Newton’s throwing hand, prompting a massive scrum for the ball, which was recovered by Denver safety T.J. Ward (one interception). On the replay, it looked like Newton had a better-than-average shot at diving for the ball and recovering it.
Instead, Newton never left his feet for the recovery attempt; and three plays later, tailback C.J. Anderson (100 total yards) would convert the Carolina turnover into Denver’s championship-clinching touchdown.
Back to the press conference …
Was Newton really that crestfallen about the Panthers’ sluggish effort? Or was he merely bolting early, in anticipation of pending questions involving the 3rd-and-9 fumble?
After all, if Newton recovers that ball … the Panthers (one of only four 15-1 regular-season teams since 1978 not to claim the Lombardi Trophy) still have a chance at victory — either through a fourth-down long pass (highly unlikely) or one final punt to the Broncos offense and subsequently hoping Peyton Manning commits a late turnover.
2) It’s irrelevant that Newton provided indifferent responses to six questions before walking out. If he had exhibited the same cadence and demeanor for his full allotment of post-game media time … it might have bore an eerie resemblance to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s awkwardly humorous post-game sessions (win or lose).
Newton’s only real crime here? NFL MVP winners are supposed to be more gracious in defeat. They’re the redoubtable faces of billion-dollar franchises and the NFL, in general. They’re supposed to be ambassadors for America’s No. 1 sport.
But how could Newton truly understand this obligation on his first Super Bowl go-round? At least give him credit for saying, “We’ll be back” — the same statement once uttered by Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino in January 1985 … just moments after Miami got crushed by San Francisco in Super Bowl XIX.
Interestingly, the Hall of Famer Marino (age 23 at the time) never reached another Super Bowl after the 1984 season. Perhaps Newton — without saying it publicly — understood that future Super Bowls are a promise to no man.
- NFL legend calls out Cam Newton for post-Super Bowl antics: ‘You can’t do that’
- WATCH: Cam Newton might have left Super Bowl press conference because of Broncos player’s interview
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.