If you hate Cam Newton, then yesterday was your Christmas because, in the span of roughly four hours, the Broncos defense systemically took apart Newton’s offense, his season, and his reputation. I spent the entire fourth quarter of that game expecting to Newton rediscover his mojo and make the game competitive. Instead, every possession got worse and worse. By the end, Newton and the Panthers had been reduced to the same middling, dull, painfully mediocre team they’d been before this season. Their garbage receivers turned back into garbage. Riverboat Ron turned back into Standard-Issue Ron. Mike Shula turned back into Mike Shula.

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And Newton had every last trace of confidence excised from his body, which should never happen to a man of that size and ability. When Cam goes under center, he looks like a giant trying to piss in a kiddie urinal. And for the better part of 2015, his confidence and stature overshadowed the entire league. He had found IT: that elusive, unflappable confidence that makes a kickass QB a kickass QB. And then, over the course of that single, final game, it all vanished.

You can go ahead and blame Michael Oher for that if you want, since Oher couldn’t pass block for shit (maybe Cam shouldn’t have begged him to come play with him). But there’s no covering for the fact that Newton played horribly last night, almost as horribly as the winning quarterback. He overthrew virtually everyone. He never settled into anything resembling a rhythm. Even when he had time, he let passes sail. And when things fell apart, he undeniably reacted poorly:

You know what that means. That means we’re in for AT LEAST another year of this shit. Outside of Cam’s brilliant regular season play, were treated to the ongoing Politicization Of Cam in 2015. There were angry Tennessee soccer mom takes and angry 12th man Facebook takes and pro-Cam takes and anti-Cam takes and anti-anti-Cam takes to anti-Cam takes that may or may not have existed. It was a goddamn black hole of Cam thinkpieces, and it will only grow deeper and darker from here because, in part, of Cam’s overt desire to be the NFL’s dominant personality. In the lead-up to this game, he talked about his image a LOT, and defended it a lot. He’s not a fool. When he prays before lining up behind center, he knows that you know that he knows you can see him pray.

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And there’s nothing wrong with that. When Cam said he wanted to be an entertainer and icon before he was drafted (and Peter King bitched him out for it), it wasn’t that big of a deal to me because, in my mind, you can be a great player AND groom your image at the same time if that’s your thing. Russell Wilson remains a great player despite accidentally and hilariously A-Rod-ing his image every other day. But if that’s a burden you want…then you better be ready for people to dump on you when you fuck it up.

I can’t celebrate Cam’s exuberance and then just gloss over the fact that he spent the postgame presser last night acting like the Wendy’s drive-thru gave him the wrong order. This site goes in on the idea of “optics” a lot: the idea of people foolishly emphasizing how things LOOK more than how things ARE. But sometimes those two things are closely related. Newton had an MVP season in part because of his bravado, and his gameplay essentially cut off oxygen to ANY stance against that bravado. And with this Super Bowl, he had a chance to snuff it out for good. Instead, everything that could go wrong did, and now Cam’s body language in gonna become A Thing again, in part because his body language WAS legitimately crummy. I’m not gonna just reflexively defend Cam in that spot just because I’ve done it all along. You can’t demand the spotlight and then push it away when you deem it inconvenient.

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I remember when Peyton Manning blew a playoff game once and, at the postgame, said, “I’m trying to be a good teammate here, but we had problems with protection.” Just completely threw his line under the bus. And I was like, “Fuck THAT guy.” And the reason why I couldn’t stand Peyton (still can’t) was because he was the Crown Prince of Football and was all too happy to bask in the role UNLESS things went wrong. When things went wrong, he turned into a glowering, mopey imbecile. And he deserved shit for it. And so does Cam. Cam had his chance, and he blew it.