There are no real one-to-one correlations to Cam Newton’s place in Charlotte right now.
Prior to the Panthers drafting him first overall last year, the city’s biggest sports personality was a basketball player with a national shoe deal which required him to wear a dress for commercials (Larry Johnson as Grandmama).
But perhaps the guy who can most closely identify with him is former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who came out of nowhere to lead the team to a Super Bowl in his first year as a starter. And having been to the highest highs, and had the city turn on him after a disastrous game in the 2008 playoffs, Delhomme knows about pressure.
“They’ve sort of hung the moon on Cam in Charlotte,” Delhomme said, via Steve Reed of the Associated Press. “The expectations on him to lead this franchise are incredible. We have to remember he’s 23 years old. He’s still a kid.”
Truth be told, Newton’s numbers aren’t that different after five games this year as last. But the Panthers are 1-4, he’s coming off his worst game as a pro, and a bye week is keeping him from changing the narrative in a town that’s down.
Delhomme said Newton has to keep it from being all about himself, having gone through a similar downturn in 2004. The Panthers followed their Super Bowl berth with a 1-7 start which included losing Steve Smith to a broken ankle in the opener, and Delhomme felt the pressure.
“I’m thinking, man what am I doing wrong?” Delhomme said. “You find yourself preparing as hard you can, watching as much film as you can and then you’re like, ‘Why isn’t coming through during the game?’ It just eats you up. It tears you apart. But finally I realized I was trying to do too much. You have to trust what you do and not try to do too much.
“There’s a fine line there.”
The burden on Newton might not be fair, but it is real. How his team responds will depend largely on how he plays, and the careers of players and coaches and staff hang in the balance.