Panther quarterback Cam Newton knows that there are a lot of people playing and coaching for their jobs in this 3-9 Carolina organization right now. He even considers himself to be one of them.
When I asked Newton during his press conference Wednesday how he and the team will find motivation for the final month of another largely irrelevant season, the quarterback said: “First, personally, nothing’s in stone right now. We know what’s going on in this franchise, and we know that the head of the franchise [Panther owner Jerry Richardson] is in search of the formula to win.”
Newton continued that theme by noting that the final month of the season will be heavily evaluated by whomever is doing the judging at that point (it’s unclear whether Rivera will be fired or not, but the team certainly will have a new GM).
Said Newton: “With people knowing that, you better start putting something successful on film, personally, or the hourglass will be cut short for a lot of people. Nothing’s safe -- not even myself.”
Newton is actually as safe a bet as there is to return for Carolina in 2013, when he will enter Year Three of his original four-year rookie contract (with a club option for a fifth that will certainly be exercised). Somewhat lost in the debris of this 3-9 season is the fact that it’s been three games since Newton has committed a single turnover of any type.
The Panthers’ quarterback has had one of the best trio of games of his brief NFL career, throwing for six touchdowns and zero interceptions and running for two more TDs in the last three contests. Still, the Panthers have only gone 1-2 in those games.
His point about the roster churn is very valid. It’s generally accepted in the NFL that about 30-40 percent of a team’s roster changes over every season. But Sports Illustrated’s Peter King noted in a recent story on the Indianapolis Colts – who have been one of the biggest success stories of the 2012 NFL season – that the Colts’ overall roster is actually 69 percent different than it was in 2011.
Newton had a key fumble in the Panthers’ 30-28 loss at Atlanta on Sept.30 – a defeat Ron Rivera said Wednesday that Newton took very personally. Because Newton is from Atlanta and was a Falcons fan growing up, he places particular importance on beating the Falcons (11-1).
“It’s a rivalry game,” Newton said. “…. With me being from Atlanta, it’s even a more added dimension to the game. I want to win this game.”