Cam Newton Is Caught In a Patrick Ewing Sleeper Hold 

Who devised the sick joke the Carolina Panthers have been playing on Cam Newton since he stormed into the league as a once in a generation baller? It’s the same joke the Knicks played on Patrick Ewing for almost two decades. Draft an all-time great talent, give him the keys to the kingdom and leave him to roam the land, defend the palace make the weapons, cook the dinners, hunt the prey and move the moon, stars and sun all by himself.

Then, as this player fights a battle that is impossible to win, critics dissect his game, find reasons to blame him for management and ownership’s inability to comprise a team to support that player’s greatness; and then rank other players better than that particular superstar because their ownership actually surrounded them with real talent.

Patrick Ewing never played with a Hall of Famer. All of his contemporaries from Hakeem Olajuwon to Alonzo Mourning and even the old-head giants on the way out like Kareem Abdul Jabbar had weapons around them. Toss in the Bulls, who never had dominating centers, but had MJ. However, as ill as MJ was, his teams were loaded with talent and players who were exceptional at specific roles. Never forget that MJ played the majority of his career with a Hall of Famer and top 50 all-time great in Scottie Pippen. Ewing’s greatest sidekick was John Starks (“The Pat Riley Experiment” which ultimately cost The Knicks and Ewing an NBA C’hip in ’94), a former grocery boy turned streaky NBA gunner.

Newton’s Hall of Fame –caliber receiver (something all great QBs MUST have) is in Baltimore now. Steve Smith was his only reliable ace and he was a diminutive one at that. To say Newton lacks talent at the skill positions is old news now, but it’s becoming a terrible trend that is distorting his career, impeding his progress and robbing him of much–deserved props.

I’m not sure if Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or any other elite QB carries Newton's burden. Most media types take the chump way out, ignore the obvious and criticize Cam, as they unfairly did Ewing. A player can’t pick who he plays with. He has to rely on a sound front office to make the magic happen.

There have only been three offensive players that have made the Pro Bowl since Newton has joined the Panthers. Two are offensive lineman Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross. The other is bulldog fullback, Mike Tolbert. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was 1984 and Mike Shula was running the Oklahoma Sooners Wishbone offense, but in this pass-happy, spread-offense infested, point producing NFL, Shula’s high efficiency, ball-control offense keeps scores lower, but severely underutilizes Newton’s full range of talents, which includes a rocket launcher of an arm.

LL posed the question years go on “Jingling Baby,” when he asked the rhetorical question, “How u gonna go against an army with a handgun?”

Even if the handgun is a .45 cal with hollows like Cam. 

During his rookie year, Newton showed the full range of his abilities. The Panthers put it all on his wing and lethal legs. He became the first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards, rush for 500 yards, and score 10 rushing TD’s.

Entering the fourth year in his career, Newton is the first player in the NFL with 10,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in his first three seasons. In addition, he also is the first player in NFL history with 50 passing TD’s and 25 rushing TD’s in his first three seasons.

And that’s with a crap offense. Despite his brilliance, the Panthers ranked 29th in passing yards per game last season and their offensive flaws are magnified come playoff time against “complete” teams. The Panthers mustered a meager 10 points in their home loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, despite Newton’s 321 yards of total offense. There was even absurd banter that Colin Kaepernick is a better QB than Killer Cam.

Amazingly, the Panthers still won 12 games, but Bushwick Bill can see that Cam is working short-handed. Similar to how the Knicks abused Ewing; the Panthers package Cam as their Superman and make a fortune off of his charisma, talent and easily marketable popularity. You wonder if the front office and ownership actually want to win a c’hip or just continue to cake off of Cam. Especially after peeping what management brought in to help Cam thrive for the 2014-15 season. 

They signed, Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant. Excuse me while I laugh myself into hysterics but it seems to me like Cam is being suckered. I don’t know what kind of game the Panthers are playing here, but they are wasting the career of one the greatest talents to ever bless the QB position. Cam is a sure-shot Super Bowl caliber dude under the right circumstances. Cam’s not scared of any moment, he has more confidence than a plastic surgeon working on Rodeo Drive

Look at what some of the game’s other VIP QB’s have to work with in comparison:

Peyton Manning has Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas. Andy Dalton is red-rifling it to A.J. Green, Mohammed Sanu and Jermaine Greshman. Jay Cutler's erratic ass has got it good with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Andrew Luck has ex-Giant Hakeem Nicks, legend Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton

Cam could even do more with Ryan Tannehill’s Miami triumvirate of Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline, although the Jets Geno Smith might have a worst group of receivers.

When you line up the squads, it’s looking like another ground and pound season for Cam and The Vanilla Wafers. Besides the defense, which is really good but not 2000 Ravens great, Cam’s only saving grace could be 6-foot-5, 240-pound rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who had one year of big-game experience as a redshirt sophomore out of Florida State, but has shown flashes of brilliance in preseason games.

The positive is that he is a huge target and they are close friends. Chemistry shouldn’t be a problem. The negative is Benjamin will have to learn on the fly and being a rookie No. 1 receiver is a tall task. Replacing Steve Smith, well…

“I’m not looking at it like taking Steve Smith’s spot,” Benjamin said minutes after being drafted. “I’m a big fan of Steve Smith. He is a great receiver in my book. I’m just coming in there to do something like he did. Come in be the best player like he was, come in and be the best player that I can be. I’m a big fan of Steve Smith.”

So was Cam. Smith was an advocate of “Air Cam” not “Bare Cam.” He had been in the NFL for 13-years and probably got released because he was just too old to be so vocal. If Cam doesn’t want to be the next Pat Ewing, he better pray to the football Gods that Benjamin is at least 85 percent of what Steve Smith was, then maybe that can be the first legitimate piece to building the kind of offense that can truly win the Panthers a Super Bowl.

Carolina needs to stop playing this man for a sucker and load up those weapons.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.