BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 02/12/2016

Thiel: Seahawks can hope Newton won’t grow up

The leader of the Seahawks’ new primary adversary, Cam Newton of the Panthers, will eventually talk his way out of a bad press conference. It will be harder to play his way out of a bad play.

Cam Newton’s sense of decorum is a trifling matter, but his sense of self-preservation is a little over-amped. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

After reading the hubbub created by Cam Newton’s pouty post-Super Bowl press conference, I recalled a years-ago conversation regarding Mariners manager Lou Piniella. A friend said the Mariners manager must be a boring guy to cover because he was so trite and cliche-dependent.

I was startled, because I found Piniella to be one of the most engaging, insightful and, yes, volatile characters I’d encountered. A journalist’s dream.

But as we talked, I realized my friend’s impression of Piniella came almost entirely from the 60 to 90 seconds shared by the cable-TV outlet from his post-game Q-and-A sessions. With few exceptions, Piniella ran through his litany of triteness to satisfy TV and radio, then often gave good answers to good questions from the remaining reporters. And at other times less pressured, Piniella was a delightful storyteller.

Since few fans saw that side of Piniella, I understood my friend’s mis-perception, and have never forgotten its lesson about the futility of determining someone’s nature and character through the filter of TV’s voracious need for brevity and acceptance of inanity.

So the way Newton handled himself with the mandatory obligation of attending the post-game presser offers only minimal insight into the quality of his future as the Panthers’ leader. Mostly, it says he has some learning to do.

Any competitor who sulks in public like that is attempting to demonstrate his great contempt for losing, thereby fulfilling his self-belief that no one was suffering as much as he was. It is an utterly misplaced attempt to impress others. Anyone who has been a child might recognize the passive-aggressive tactic.

That’s just immaturity. My guess is that he’ll grow up and out of it. Not because he needs to impress the media or the public, but because immaturity puts pressure on his coaches and teammates to either explain him or compensate for him.

Testimony to that point came post-game when Broncos safety T.J. Ward, who said Newton’s penchant for petulance was part of the game plan.

“Hey, when things don’t go his way, we see the body language — it’s obvious,” Ward said. “That’s what we wanted to do. That was our intent to come in this game and get the body language going. We didn’t want the happy, fun-spirited ‘dabbing’ Cam.

“No, we want the sulking, upset, talking to my linemen, my running backs, ‘I don’t know what’s going on’ Cam Newton — and that’s what we got.”

From a Seattle perspective, Newton’s emotions are intriguing, because not only do he and the Panthers loom as disruptive to the Seahawks’ plan for NFC hegemony, the two most popular Seahawks have chosen to engage the public differently than Newton — and in polar-opposite ways. Each way works for them.

QB Russell Wilson opens a significant part of of his life to public scrutiny via social media — religion, love life, charitable deeds, Halloween costumes, vacations — and uses his mainstream media platform to deliver hundred-word answers filled with platitudes, bromides and homilies that offer almost no insight beyond what seems to have been scripted. But his national jersey sales, to use one simple marker of popularity, are always top five in the NFL and often No. 1.

On the other hand, retiring RB Marshawn Lynch avoids the weekly inquisitions so stridently that it has cost him fine money. But his inscrutable nature yields a mystery that advertisers, national networks and TV talk shows find compelling. He cooperates with them when conversation suits his desire to grow his brand. He’s at the top of every national TV talk-show producer’s must-have list.

Wilson, the hero, embraced in part for his approachability. Lynch, the anti-hero, embraced in part for his aloofness. From radically different personalities, they each succeed in advancing themselves in the public eye.

Newton? The happy-go-lucky dude of 17-1 is now the sullen brat of 17-2.

But as was said, it’s fixable. He’s 26 and just finished his first go-round at the highest level.

More disturbing was what Newton did during the game, when his fourth-quarter fumble was rolling free upon the ground, yet he pulled back from his impulse to jump into the mayhem. The recovery by Denver set up the Broncos’ only offensive touchdown of the game, a four-yard drive that snuffed any chance of comeback by Carolina.

On the Panthers getaway day in Charlotte Monday, Newton offered a lame explanation about his leg being potentially “contorted” in the scrum, but remained defiant about what’s known in the trade as a “business decision” — avoiding contact that could jeopardize his future earnings.

“I don’t dive on one fumble because the way my leg was — it could have been (contorted) in a way,” Newton said. “OK, you say my effort. I didn’t dive down. I fumbled. That’s fine. But we didn’t lose that game because of that fumble. I can tell you that.”

Well, the play, and the game, was still undecided at that point. What surely was lost was Newton’s credibility as an athlete.

Business decisions get made all the time in the preseason, the Pro Bowl, and regular-season games drained of significance. Business decisions don’t get made when the Super Bowl outcome is at stake.

What a professional athlete says, or doesn’t say, usually amounts to a fleeting dust-up or a minor annoyance. As Wilson and Lynch have proven. What the same athlete does with the game on the line fairly screams.

After losing a Super Bowl to New England on a magnum error, the Seahawks had a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. Now, it is Newton’s turn — except it’s all about that action.



  • Jamo57

    Obviously Cam and Russell have been, and probably will be, compared to each other their entire careers. For me, it isn’t so much Newton’s fumble or the press conference, it was the body language during the game culminated by Cam’s falling to the ground on the sidelines in response to the defensive penalty in the end zone at the end of the game. In the era of big screen, HDTVs the viewer could see the progression of Newton’s frustration and inability to lead his team out of their malaise increasing as the game progressed.

    And the stronger comparison for me is with the 2014 NFC Championship game where the Hawks must have been equally frustrated with how the game was going. In fact, when Wilson threw his last interception, I asked the bartender to close out my tab so I could beat the rush and make a hasty exit after the game. RW had different ideas, stayed in the game, kept his team in the game and we know how that turned out, and we got that memorable sideline interview after the Hawks won in OT (and the bartender gave me a couple of free rounds LOL).

    Two different responses to adversity. Two different results. As your headline implies, these two QBs will be interesting to watch over the next 8 to 10 years. I hope Cam doesn’t change.

    • art thiel

      As Ward said, Newton’s body language told a tale. A mature leader like Wilson never lets on about any anxiety, because in a game he’s so well prepared he has little.

      • Jamo57

        Yeah, it all came out in that interview with Erin Andrews after the game. LOL

  • MrPrimeMinister

    While newton’s continued antics would make Copernicus proud(the sun revolves around the earth, the earth revolves around me), there’s this: he beat the ducks in the title game, while Russell lost to the ducks in the rose bowl. Just saying . . .

    • Bruce McDermott

      He’d trade a Super Bowl victory for the Duck game in a heartbeat. And Wilson has one. Just sayin’…

    • Jamo57

      Travis Wilson must be headed to Canton then.

    • art thiel

      Newton won a championship at pro football’s lowest level. lost one at its highest.

  • Paul Harmening

    A bona-fide 4 man rush will keep Cam on the lam, out of the Super Bowl and from presumed maturity at some point. If he can’t jab like Ali, he don’t dab.

    • art thiel

      Look at you, Ali impersonator.

  • 1coolguy

    Cam was a punk on the sideline the 4th qtr, not a leader what-so-ever. Sitting there alone, sulking, no engaging his players or the coaches. Not doing anything indicating he wanted back in and was prepared to fight to the end. You would have thought it was the Hawks – Denver SB beat down! Then he punked out not going for the fumble, which is the opposite action of any football player I know, THEN he punked out at the presser – 3 strikes you’re out. I hope the owner has had a private meeting with him to straighten him out and Goodell certainly should have, as now Cam, as MVP, is the face of the league – YUK!

    • art thiel

      I kept thinking, this is Terrell Owens taking snaps.

      • 1coolguy


  • Cam doesn’t understand good manners. That’s a shame, but it’s useful for opponents, now that they understand it better. He won’t be sneaking up on anyone next season, and his version of “poker face” has now been on display for everyone who cares about the game. There’s a saying that every game of poker has one sucker. If you don’t know who it is, it’s you. Hey, Cam. You just made yourself easier to beat.

    • SeaRaays

      The only reason they or Cam snuck up on people as you put it. Was his O line performance was one of the best for the season. It gave him a lot of time. The Super Bowl …Denver shut it down and didn’t give him time to sit back and do his passing. If RW had that O Line for the season Seattle could of been undefeated. Yet we would not of seen RW grow into a better and quicker pocket passer.

      • art thiel

        A great Wilson asset is adaptability. He deals, never whines.

        • SeaRaays

          Life is picking your time and places. It was not a surprise for Cam’s performance after the loss. It is entertainment and he will sell tickets. On and off the field. Where RW sells tickets on the field and likes to show his selfies to the public. I will whine for RW about the Seahawks needing O line.

    • art thiel

      You’re assuming Newton can’t learn?

      • No, sir. I’m just observing that he has some learning to do. The conduct of a schoolyard bully will not stand the test of time in the NFL. Gloating in victory and pouting in defeat will earn him the enmity of many. “Big and bad” has its limitations against a plurality of the league that thinks you’re a pussy.

  • Kirkland

    You could bring up another Seahawk contrast: Richard Sherman. He’s almost Ali-like in his brashness and outspokenness, but when the Hawks lose he owns up to defeat and is gracious to the opposition, like when he was one of the first to congratulate Tom Brady after the Super Bowl loss. Someone should send this “If you can dish it out, you should be able to take it” example to Newton.

    • art thiel

      Gamesmanship aside, Sherman is honest, win or lose. Newton should have learned it earlier, but he’s waited until the biggest moment in sports to get a lesson.

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  • mrRef63

    Art, I continue to be thoroughly entertained by you insight to articles such as this! You are a master at your craft and this reader really enjoys your mastery! From one Lute to another…you are terrific!

    • art thiel

      You made my Saturday. Thanks.

  • notaboomer

    white people want cam newton to spout cliches. got it. so he can be classy like peyton, right?

    • Mark Miller

      Really? Why must it ALWAYS be about RACE with some people! He was immature, and has to learn to handle that as a human being. P.E.R.I.O.D!

      • notaboomer

        for some it’s about rape apparently.

        • Mark Miller

          What is it that makes you think this is the appropriate place for that discussion? One has nothing to do with the other. THIS article is about Cam and his performance during the Superbowl as the NFC champion. Nothing else. Save it for another appropriate article.

          • notaboomer

            i thought it was a chat about QBs and their conduct.

          • Mark Miller

            Listen. I get it you appear to have an axe to grind. Fine. This was not a conversation about accusations with regards to other QB’s. It is an article about one QB who had problems dealing with what occurred in the game, and hopes that (our team) can capitalize on what appears to be a possible maturity flaw in the future facing him.

            You friend are the person who introduced race.

            I don’t know if what Manning is accused of is true, and yes I read the article. I don’t care for him either as a player for that matter. If he did the things she claims he should pay the cost for doing so. That said, race has nothing to do with CN and his behavior at and around the super bowl which you attempted to insinuate.

            Poor attitudes, poor sportsmanship and childish behavior are color blind. Newton should held to the standards of leadership for a NFL QB. Note: that to is colorblind.

            The fact that CN is afro-American has nothing to do with measurement of either his maturity or leadership in that game and possibly others to come.

            Respectfully said, you are entitled to your opinions.

          • notaboomer

            race is an issue for the cam newton analysis whether you like it or not. don’t believe me, google or twitter search it.

          • Mark Miller

            In THIS ARTICLE comment section you injected it. There was no need. You also injected a totally different topic. Enough with division and insinuation! Cam is a QB. One that has maturity issues.

            Also, in my opinion people that would equate his poor sportsmanship to the color of his skin are ignorant no matter who they would be. Nobody HERE did that but YOU.

            Pathetic! Get over the SJW b.s.

            Content of character works much better.

          • art thiel

            Not sure I find Newton’s field-of-play issues in Wilson, Moon, Harris, McNabb, Cunningham and numerous other African American QBs.

          • Justin Van Eaton

            Even Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater have better on-field maturity, despite some serious growing pains as QB’s.

    • art thiel

      I think the point is to keep his cool on the field so he doesn’t hurt his team. Words are far secondary.

  • notaboomer

    maybe cam should try abstinence.

    Ciara opens up about difficulties of remaining abstinent with Russell Wilson: ‘I’m human, so it is not easy’

    • rosetta_stoned


  • notaboomer

    or politics like tom brady.

    Tom Brady appears as write-in on two ballots in New Hampshire, steals votes from best bud Donald Trump

    • rosetta_stoned

      Yawn x 2.

  • Jeff Shope

    He won,t Newton is a spoiled brat has been since before Auburn days

  • lesniako .


    I submitted two days ago to the Cascadia Weekly, Whatcom County’s weekly alternative newspaper, the below letter to the editor. It’s about Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, perhaps the two most dynamic QB personalities in the NFL .

    In the letter I compare Newton’s Super Bowl post-game press conference with how Wilson conducts his frequent in-season press conferences. I then acknowledge Wilson has a group of critics that regard his public speech scripted, not amounting to much insight. I put you in this group of critics based on this from your 12/12/16 Newton column where you say of Wilson’s public comments:

    “. . . hundred-word answers filled with platitudes, bromides and homilies that offer almost no insight beyond what seems to have been scripted.”

    My last paragraph counters the scripted-speech view of Wilson.

    Before Wilson played his first game, I knew this guy was very, very special. He is the ultimate practitioner of metaphysics – the mental skill needed for ultimate success. This was apparent in one of his rookie pre-season press conferences after being named the starting QB. He stated without pretension that his aim was being football great, not just way above average, but actually great! That statement, and how he made it, plus knowing his history, makes me predict that Wilson, if he can stay healthy, will be up there at the end of his career on the top shelf with Griffey and Ichiro as one of the truly great NW athletes.

    A sporting event happened several weeks ago that continues to provoke public conversations about racism, egomania, respect, maturity and what it means to be a professional.

    The event was this year’s Super Bowl post-game press conference with Cam Newton, the losing Carolina Panthers’ QB. Before abruptly walking out of the press conference at about the 3-minute mark, Newton answered questions with the most sullen attitude imaginable, grunting one-word replies when he could, displaying not a note of grace or maturity. This from the league’s most famous showboater known for his “Superman” dance when his team scores. Ironically, the day before Super-Bowl Sunday Newton was named the NFL’s MVP.

    This past football season I watched online every one of the twice-weekly press conferences of Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks’ QB. Unlike the dark negativity of Newton, Wilson has always been brilliant at his press conferences. He’s everything a franchise and league would want as their public face: unrelentingly positive in victory or defeat, relaxed, smart, articulate, passionate, totally engaged in the give and take of questions and answers.

    Though I’m not one of them, Wilson has his critics concerning one particular area. To many, his Q&A sessions seem robotic. It’s true, he does use over and over a handful of axioms and aphorisms (“separation is in the preparation”) in his public remarks that can be interpreted as scripted speech, devoid of substantial insight, boring.

    My take is quit different. I think of Wilson as a gifted teacher of leadership and success. Masters, the true gurus, the excellent communicators in command of their work seldom need more than a handful of concepts and words to explain the essence of what needs to be explained despite the myriad viewing angles and desires of those seeking answers.

    Jerry Lesniak
    Bellingham, WA