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NFL Black QB Chronicles: Newton, Winston, At Career Crossroads

Thursday Night Football will be the turning point for two Black quarterbacks.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The first Thursday night football game of the 2019-20  NFL season pits two black quarterbacks, who find themselves at the crossroads of their careers. 

The NFL has never had such an abundance of talented, starting back quarterbacks. In Week 1, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes all had wavy performances. 

There was a time, not too long ago, when the Black quarterback was still somewhat of a novelty and Cam Newton and Jameis Winston were two former Heisman winners holding the torch for black NFL quarterbacks and considered major parts of the transformative future of the position.

They were the blueprints for the explosion of NFL ready African-American quarterbacks currently shaping the league. Now they are afterthoughts when mentioning the top Black signal-callers in the sport. In fact, Cam’s overall celebrity has made him somewhat of a sideshow now that his skills aren’t as potent. 

Cam is coming off another shoulder surgery and two unimpressive seasons marred by injuries and ineffectiveness. The former NFL MVP has thrown 46 TDs and 29 picks in the two seasons prior to this one. On Sunday he was average in a 30-27 loss to the Rams, throwing for just 239 yards, a pick and producing a 72.1 passer rating. 

Panthers Nation is starting to get worried that it may never again see the old Cam Newton —  who threw the ball 70 yards down the field on a strike, mowed linebackers and Dabbed the Panthers to Super Bowl. If Cam doesn’t have a vintage performance tonight, that would be further indication that the sands of the hourglass are moving expeditiously on him. Cam was once considered the new face of the NFL. Now he’s just giving face. 

Since escaping a sexual assault charge at Florida State and winning the Heisman Trophy, Winston’s NFL career has been a grade marked as incomplete.

He’s had some moments where he put up gaudy numbers and seemed to be moving into the upper echelon of QBs, but losing records, more off the field drama and an inability to make progress with reading defenses and protecting the ball has caused his stock to drop considerably.

As he enters the last year of his rookie contract, Winston’s future with the Bucs will depend on his performance this season. 

He’s probably one of the most complex NFL talents to figure out. He has all the tools on the field, but he still lacks a maturity that at the age of 25 hasn’t peaked yet. Winston is the ultimate enigma.  

On Sunday, he went 20-for-36 for 194 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a miserable passer rating of 45.4. But, those 194 yards put Winston’s career passing total at 14,822 yards, two yards better than former Bucs quarterback Vinny Testaverde. That means Winston now the Tampa Bay Bucs’ franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards.  

He’s proved that he can light it up. Now he has to prove that he can actually change the franchise’s losing culture. The best thing you can say about Winston is that at age 25 his best moments as a quarterback are still ahead of him.

Cam, on the other hand, is 30 years old, has taken more hits than a crash dummy in his NFL career and the more he plays, the more it’s evident that his 2015 MVP and Super Bowl season is probably the last time we’ll ever see that version of Cam.

He was truly, “something the NFL has never seen before.”

With both Tampa Bay (0-1) and Carolina (0-1) in search of an ice-breaking win, tonight’s matchup could serve as a catapult to greater things for one quarterback and the beginning of the end for the other.

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