Thursday, November 17, 2011
Before we get into the towel Newton puts over his head when things aren't going well, let me say this: Newton is the best thing to happen to this team in a long time. He has made them relevant, interesting and dangerous. If he's not the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, that's crazy.
But as for the way Newton isolates himself on the sideline when things aren't going well, I'm not a huge fan of it. Whether he's got the towel on his head or not doesn't make a difference to me, but I would like to see him trying to inspire his teammates more and less involved in his private pain, alone on a corner of the bench.
I think this will come with maturity. Newton is so dynamic it's easy to forget he's a rookie, sorting out his emotions on a far more public stage than most 22-year-olds have to do.
Newton said Wednesday he wasn't about to change his behavior, saying of losing: "This is something that I'm not used to and it's something that I'm not going to get used to. So you look at it as poor leadership. You look at it as a sore loser. I'd rather be a sore loser than anything."
He also said: "I want to win. So I'm going to try to win. And if I don't win, I'm going to pitch a fit."
Right now, as another writer once joked, he is more like "Cam Neton" because the "W's" are missing. The Panthers are 2-7 and about to go on a three-game road trip. Newton, unfortunately, is going to get a lot more chances to practice losing before this season is over.
As I wrote five weeks ago about Newton on this subject:
A good leader grabs his team by the shoulder pads and pulls them up when everyone is down about a loss. But Newton is so involved in his private pain after losses that he has a hard time letting anyone else inside.
There's so much to like about Newton. Don't misunderstand me - he's the biggest reason this team has hope again. He has both Super Bowl and hall of fame potential. I love watching him.
He knows how to win. How to throw. How to run.
But Newton has got to get better at three things - how to learn from losing. How to lead. And how to finish.
When Newton gets those three down pat, there's no limit to what he will do.
I still believe that. And I think he will learn all three of those things and, eventually, become a great NFL quarterback. But, like all rookies, he's a work in progress.