Only in a land populated by crazy people would the 100th pick in the draft be perceived as a threat to a guy on a $100 million contract who has an MVP on the shelf.
Then again — as we’ve written for years — Cam Newton makes people stupid.
After using their compensatory third-rounder on West Virginia quarterback Will Grier last night, Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera spent much of their midnight press conference talking about how it affected — or didn’t affect — Newton.
“Nothing to do with Cam,” Hurney said. “I said he’s our franchise quarterback. This is about depth and bringing in young guys and developing young guys. This has nothing to do with Cam Newton. Cam Newton is our starting quarterback and franchise quarterback. This is just about bringing in young guys to develop and depth.”
So, just to be clear, is this about Cam? Is he the franchise? Will he still be the starter?
Of course he is, and was, and will be. And the fact the Panthers had to specify whether they called Cam late Friday night to tell him (they didn’t) or whether Grier was pro-ready (such that anyone is) speaks more to the larger issues that surround the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Because he never fit in the preconceived quarterback trait box (and because of the unfortunate cultural reality), people have been picking Newton apart for what he isn’t since his days at Florida. He has done things along the way to invite some criticism, but never in proportion with his talents and skills — or the fact he was able to drag a team without great offensive talent to a national title at Auburn and to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance with the Panthers.
Simply put, the Panthers needed to draft Grier because they hadn’t drafted a quarterback since Newton, and they lacked enough of a backup to be comfortable.
The fact Newton’s turning 30, has two years left on his contract, and is coming off shoulder surgery has created something of a local paranoia. But the kinds of people who think Grier is a replacement apparently don’t realize that good teams regard drafting backups as commodities as a strategy. The Patriots used seconds and thirds on Ryan Mallett, Jacoby Brissett, and Jimmy Garoppolo, and somehow Tom Brady remains; the same way Ben Roethlisberger has continued despite the additions of Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs, and Landry Jones with thirds and fourths.
“I think Cam understands that this is about depth at the position,” Hurney said.
That Hurney had to say it out loud suggests his fan base does not.