Cam Newton had more questions than answers Tuesday as he met with reporters in Charlotte primarily for the purpose of criticizing critics of his post-Super Bowl 50 postgame press conference. Or lack thereof.
“Who likes to lose?” Newton asked.
Only NBA teams tanking for a better draft pick, Cam. But that doesn’t mean churlishness is the best policy for an NFL Most Valuable Player after the biggest sporting event in the world.
“What makes your way right?”
Note that Newton has no problem with conventional ways when he is trying to sell us things, only when we — the football fans of America — want a few coherent thoughts on an inept performance in a 24-10 Super Bowl loss to the underdog Denver Broncos.
Hopefully, Newton doesn’t continue to scratch the wound on a fragile image that dramatically improved over the last year or so with a 15-1 season and many good deeds. It’s no big deal if he keeps winning, and handles the next large loss with more thought and fewer one-word answers.
“I don’t have to conform to anybody else’s wants for me to do,” Newton, 26, said Tuesday. “I’m not that guy.”
The thing is, when you are signed to a $103.8 million dollar extension, you are representing more than just one guy.
When you win the NFL MVP award, you represent the league as well as yourself.
Newton made tremendous leadership progress this season on and off the field, from dominating games to handing footballs to kids to making new teammates feel welcome.
“I don’t want you, I need you,” he told castoff left tackle Michael Oher.
Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. was better known for drops than clutch catches but caught a career-high 10 touchdown passes in 2015.
“When (wide receiver) Kelvin (Benjamin) went down in training camp, Cam told me, ‘Come on, Ted, let’s have the best season you’ve ever had,’” Ginn said.
Sadly, for a lot of people, all that is lost in the shadow of Super Bowl 50 reaction.
Newton could have learned from another quarterback who suffered a tough loss on the biggest football championship stage, Deshaun Watson. The two have become good friends. The Clemson sophomore quarterback was Newton’s guest at the Panthers’ Divisional playoff victory over Seattle last month, though it is hard to tell which one is the mentor.
“I pick his brain on some things, and he picks my brain on some things,” Newton said. “He’s a smart young man.”
Smart enough to compose himself for just the few minutes it takes to address the media after a game.
“Sooner or later I will appreciate the hard work and the guys around me who helped me accomplish that,” Watson, a Heisman Trophy finalist, said just minutes after Clemson’s 45-40 loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game.
This is not a racial or generational thing. As most of those people objecting to Newton’s on-field celebration antics are contemporary defensive backs, linebackers and defensive ends, some of his loudest post-Super Bowl presser critics are ex-players.
“Immature,” said NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders, the Hall of Fame cornerback/showman.
Talking about losing a big game is no fun, but high school kids deal with it. When a leader doesn’t answer questions about what went wrong, teammates have to take the heat and do it for him.
It’s the same way in business.
Which begs the question: Will this hurt Newton on Madison Avenue?
Probably not. In this day of twisted logic, it might even land him a few new spots. Marshawn Lynch’s “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” Super Bowl act not only landed him a few commercials, he has trademarked the line.
So don’t be surprised to see Cam Newton in a sore loser ad, though ideally not airing during a Panthers loss.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff