Cam Newton was the toast of Charlotte after his brilliant rookie season with the Panthers. But, success in the NFL can be as fleeting as the weather. Wait five minutes and it could change.
Immersed in a sophomore slump, Newton is currently at the controls of a 1-5 team with little hope of turning things around this week with the Monsters of the Midway on the horizon.
Newton is the same player he was a year ago and that's the problem. Like a lot of young quarterbacks, he's failed to adjust as opposing defenses caught up to his unconventional style.
Panic has taken over the Queen City with general manager Marty Hurney serving as the first sacrifice. And since conventional wisdom says a new GM is likely going to want to instill his "own guy," head coach Ron Rivera is also now on the endangered species list.
Hurney, of course, wouldn't be on the unemployment line and Rivera wouldn't be updating his resume if Newton's career had continued to ascend sans hiccups.
That said, if anybody thought the talented Newton was going to continue on to NFL greatness without significant speed bumps along the way, he probably has the Brooklyn Bridge in his real estate portfolio.
Opponents have taken star receiver Steve Smith away and like most young quarterbacks Newton has struggled mightily with his progressions. At this stage, he's still a guy who can read only half the field on any particular drop back. It's first read and run or first read and check down for Cam right now and that can be an ugly way to play football.
We all understand the capacity to accept or tolerate trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset, is just not something in most NFL fans. Only when patience becomes a lost virtue in an NFL front office is it a problem.
In the end, whether Charlotte knows it or not, Newton is going to be fine. He hasn't lost his amazing athletic gifts and while it's conceivable he didn't work hard enough this past offseason or show the type of maturity needed to be an upper-echelon NFL quarterback on a consistent basis, one thing is certain: he's beginning to take accountability now.
That in itself is a very positive sign.
"I just keep living life," Newton told Chicago-area reporters Wednesday during a conference call. "I understand I'm not perfect. I'm striving to be great. Whatever people may think, or whatever people may criticize me on, I take it for what it's worth, and continuously try to make myself better each and every opportunity I get."
Hall of Famer Warren Moon, who has been a mentor to Newton, took a different path and did the Auburn product no favors when he fell on his sword for him by insinuating the criticism Newton has received is race related, a ludicrous salvo considering how he was embraced during his rookie season.
Sure, there's always a few detractors who will see color, but the vast majority of NFL fans peer through the looking glass of success and would root for the biggest despot on the planet if it meant hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the finish line.
"I heard somebody compare (Newton) to Vince Young," Moon told Yahoo Sports. "It's the same old crap -- it's always a comparison of one black to another black. I get tired of it. I get tired of defending it."
Then stop defending it.
Look at what happened in Minneapolis during the Minnesota Vikings' loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Fellow sophomore quarterback Christian Ponder, who is Caucasian, was booed out of the building barely three minutes into the game despite the fact the surprising Vikings entered the contest with a 5-2 record.
The fans had the innate feel that the Vikes were succeeding despite Ponder and had already tired of his inability to read a defense and successfully navigate through his progressions. It's not about color -- it's about the game being too fast for young quarterbacks.
If someone did make that Newton-Young comparison strictly on a skin color basis, it was farcical. But what if it was an off-the-field contrast?
Remember back in September 2008 when a distraught Young left his home without his cell phone, ostensibly because he was upset over being booed by fans after throwing a second interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jeff Fisher was so concerned he called Nashville police.
Fast forward to Week 3 of this season when Smith had to urge Newton to watch backup Derek Anderson instead of sulking on the bench at the end of a 29-point home blowout loss to the New York Giants. Afterward multiple reports surfaced suggesting Newton sought professional help, although he denied it.
"If you want to compare (Newton) to someone because of his demeanor, compare him to Jay Cutler," Moon said. "There are a lot of guys who whine and moan. Cam's not biting anybody's head off or pushing his linemen. He's just disgruntled and not handling losing well because, think about it, he basically didn't lose in college."
Some of us might think that comparison is unfair. Yeah, Newton's body language can be awful at times and although it isn't as bad as Cutler's, that's like saying Stage 4 cancer isn't quite as bad as Stage 5.
But here's the promising part -- Newton has shown the inclination to change his behavior and even made the very grown-up decision to distance himself from Moon's excuses during his conference call.
"I haven't heard anything he said. But, obviously, Warren is a person I go to for guidance and leadership on the field and off the field," Newton said, "When it comes to (racism), I don't think there is any at all."
Conversely, Cutler is the kind of guy always playing the woe-is-me card and looking for the next excuse.
The irony is by trying to protect Newton, Moon made a far more disparaging comparison than David Duke ever could.