How Cam Newton Became The Dominant Force In Football

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Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that the football world was obsessed with Cam Newton’s negative body language. Steve Smith, then a teammate, commented on his “sulking”. Hell, even I made fun of Cam rocking a grandma sweater in a postgame press conference and looking like he just wanted to find a bowl of hot soup. Outside of RG3, I’m not sure any player has ever has his every word and every microscopic expression as heavily scrutinized as Cam Newton. And it’s been this way since the beginning of his career. Remember the infamous Nolan Nawrocki scouting report?

Very disingenuous — has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law


And Peter King’s “icon” tweet?


Outside of politics, sports is the main field where people love to construct a profile for other people based upon the flimsiest of visual and audible evidence. I know this because I do it ALL THE TIME. Why does Bill O‘Brien’s face look like that? He must be a real asshole! And for some athletes and coaches, an unwarranted reputation can have a real and detrimental effect on your career. Sometimes all the haterade is too much to overcome. And it seemed, for a while, that this would be the case with Newton.

Which is why it’s been such a great surprise, perhaps the only great surprise of the 2015 season, that Newton has not only broken through and become the most valuable player in the NFL, but that he’s done so by EXPLOITING the very same body language that people used to crush him for. Newton is now the best player in the game, AND he’s the most expressive, and it’s not crazy to think those two qualities feed off one another.

You see it every week, much to the agitation of Tennessee soccer moms. He lets out a low HEYYYYYYY before he strolls up to the line of scrimmage, like he’s greeting an old friend at a bar. He dances. He smiles. He runs around on the sideline and eggs the crowd on. He preens.


This is not standard QB behavior, and that’s where it gets interesting. Throughout virtually all of football history, there is a prototype for the ideal quarterback temperament. A quarterback must be levelheaded. He must be stoic, quietly going about his business. He must be COOL. With the exception of maybe Brett Favre (GUHHHHH), you can go through the list of greats and find a procession of inoffensive, bland men: Unitas, Montana, Marino, Manning. All quietly competitive… all surprisingly dopey in non-football matters.

To deviate from the prototype (especially if you happen to be a black QB) usually gets you crushed. When Tom Brady bitches out his O-line, it’s productive. If Cam ever did that, he’d be treated like a malcontent. How many fucking times have you heard a quarterback get lambasted by someone saying, “You’d never see Peyton Manning (dancing/laughing/actively having a personality)!” Scouts like Nawrocki can simply point to history and have it justify their demand to preserve the quarterback position as the last refuge for any all antiquated notions of how athletes OUGHT to behave. Joe Montana won titles by being a cipher, so you should do likewise. Scouts believe that a certain comportment is needed, and—more important—they WANT it to be needed. Acting otherwise can get you railroaded. That’s not true of any other position in sports. A tight end can behave like Gronk, but a QB can’t.


And one of the joys of this season has been to watch Newton openly and deliberately blow that model to shit. His team is unbeaten. Despite having dog food scraps at wideout, he has already passed for more touchdowns this season than he has in any other full season. He’s passing through defenders as if they’re poltergeists. And yet, in some statistical ways, this Cam isn’t that different from seasons prior. His completion percentage, attempts, yards per game, and even his interception rate are all similar from his stats in years past. Even if you go over to the advanced stat sites, you’ll find that Newton has a negative DVOA (Wha?) and a QBR lower than the likes of Alex Smith and Marcus Mariota.

But I refuse to believe that Newton is the same player he’s always been. The Panthers’ 13-0 run is clearly not just a byproduct of a better defense. Like you, I fucking hate leaning on the conveniently vague catch-all of intangibles in football, but only a jackass would deny that Newton is playing with far more confidence than he’s ever shown on the field. It’s almost as if he only now discovered that he could increase his superpowers by telling everyone to go fuck themselves. (Also, it probably doesn’t hurt that he has a bazooka for an arm and a brick shithouse physique that can withstand more punishment than any other mobile quarterback).


Every seemingly revolutionary quarterback throughout history—from Michael Vick to RG3—usually gets browbeaten into sticking to the prototype. They come into the league, they run, they suffer through the dreaded “DCs finally got you on tape!” phase, then there is the painful attempted Steve DeBerg-ing of that once-dazzling player, and the rehabbing is only intermittently successful. It’s become so predictable by now that you can set your watch to it.

But Newton, thank Christ, may be proving that this was never a matter of changing the game with your style, but with your demeanor. If he takes the Panthers all the way to a championship, he will prove once and for all that you don’t have to be a vacant butthole to be a franchise QB. You can dab. You can have visible swagger. You can be HUMAN, and that’s something the NFL has needed for a very long time.


The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.


Five Throwgasms

Broncos at Steelers: I know there’s a handful of exciting matchups this week but fuck all that: IT’S STAR WARS WEEK. I’m seeing that shit tomorrow night and have thought of literally nothing else for the past month.


I got my kids prepared by screening Empire and Jedi for them on successive nights recently. I had a whole romantic vision in my head of showing them the original trilogy and blowing their fucking minds with it, but of course it didn’t go that way. When we were watching Empire, my oldest kid asked annoying questions the WHOLE time. I don’t even think she was really interested in the answers, she just wanted some attention. “Why is Darth Vader’s helmet so shiny?” etc.

So we get to the final showdown in Empire, and just as Vader is saying the money line, my kid mindlessly asks, “Hey, is Darth Vader Luke’s dad?” AS Vader is revealing it. I’m not even sure she heard the line. I’ve never been so annoyed. She’s lucky I’m still taking her to Force Awakens. NO MORE QUESTIONS, MISSY. Watch the stupid movie if you want to know why shit is happening the way it is.


Four Throwgasms

Eagles at Cardinals: More Star Wars: I have the original trilogy on DVD, but it’s the dreaded “Special Edition” reissues that feature all of George Lucas’s extra ILM showreel effects. And I forgot just how awful the musical number is in the revised Jedi. Here’s the original version of it, which is perfectly tolerable:

And here is the five-dollar revision, featuring an aardvark emcee and a fucking frog on a harmonica. I dare you to watch all of it.

I was embarrassed for humanity watching this scene. It’s endless. I know George Lucas has already proven that he has suspect judgment, but I can’t think of a single circumstance that would cause people to watch this revision and then nod and be like, “Oh yeah, this is a HUGE improvement.” It’s like someone put the Gummy Bear Song in the middle of Casablanca. I don’t get it.


Panthers at Giants: Why is Greg Olsen so against dabbing?




Three Throwgasms

Bills at Skins: In case you missed it, Herm Edwards went on a whole phony rant against LeSean McCoy last week:


“I don’t wanna coach this!” Herm, my man, I don’t think you ever have to worry about coaching that, because no team is hiring your sorry ass to come back to the NFL to go 5-11. That’s why you’re manning a studio desk and spouting out limp, producer-approved rants. Herm Edwards is a delusional fraud. He gets paid to sit there every week and pantomime like he’s still coaching when he’s talking to an empty room. He has no influence and nothing interesting to say. His only job is to get old fogies at home to go YOU TELL ‘EM, HERM. I am genuinely sad whenever I watch ESPN trot out a bunch of has-beens for these shows. They may as well put every analyst in an old wedding dress. YOU CAN’T TURN BACK TIME, GENTLEMEN.


Bears at Vikings

Packers at Raiders


Two Throwgasms

Jets at Cowboys: Public service announcement: This game is taking place on Saturday night, even though it is branded as Thursday Night Football. We must preserve TNF’s beloved reputation for this special broadcast.


As always, I have to take a moment to point out that the NFL used to have Saturday afternoon games in late December, but then stopped for reasons unknown even to God himself. All you get is this piddly shit night game, when you least need it. They can put a game in London, but not at 4:30 on a December afternoon? Roger Goodell belongs in jail.

Bengals at Niners: Andy Dalton is out and A.J. McCarron is in, which means that your Cincinnati Bengals are now the unofficial team of TRUMP 2016!!!!!! Never forget!


Yes, you thought that Brent Musberger was the only old man to publicly declare his horniness for Katherine Webb, but you forgot!

“I don’t know why ESPN apologized. I thought that what they said and I frankly thought that Brett…he said what everybody was thinking,” Trump told E! News with a shrug. “Look at all these guys they’re all agreeing! Do we agree fellas?”


I would like Trump to issue a formal policy statement saying he would TOTALLY bone Katherine Webb. It could be his first executive action. “We’re gonna send the Muslims out and bring the hot chicks in. YOU HAVE MY WORD.”

Falcons at Jaguars: I forgot until just now that the Falcons hired Scott Pioli as their assistant GM two years ago. EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW.


Browns at Seahawks

Titans at Patriots


One Throwgasm

Bucs at Rams: Oh God another Color Rush game. We should fast forward to the part where some child watching at home has an epileptic fit looking the Rams peepee uniforms, and then the parents sue Nike, and then the uniforms are formally discontinued. There’s no need to delay the inevitable.


Lions at Saints: I watched my team lose three fumbles last week, which was painful and horrible. And as I was tearing through the drywall of my home and wishing leprosy upon Norv Turner, I realized something: lost fumbles are worse than interceptions. If you lose a fumble in your own territory, it’s awful because the other team can get an easy score off it. And if you fumble on the OTHER side of the field, it’s even worse because you know you blew a good scoring opportunity. An interception can have a much greater distance between where you possess the ball and the spot of the turnover. If you’re at your 30 but the ball is picked forty yards downfield, that’s not an awful turnover. It’s somewhat tolerable. But watching your wideout catch a 20-yard pass and THEN fumble, negating the good thing he just did? AGONY. It’s the worst. Fumbles should be banned.

Dolphins at Chargers

Chiefs at Ravens

Texans at Colts

Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Melody Lane,” by Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. They’re BACK. From David:

I saw them live for the 3rd time a couple weeks ago, but because I’m a dumbass I forgot that their new album had just come out, and didn’t listen to it before the show. They came out with this to open the set, and I almost shat myself. It’s just savage.


Damn right. I respect any band that sounds like they’re coming to kill you.

Suicide Pick Of The Week

Last week’s suicide picks of Kansas City, Seattle, and Green Bay went 3-0. That makes me 25-17 on the season. Again, we now pick three teams for your suicide pool, along with one thing that makes me want to commit suicide. This week, the picks are Jacksonville, the Jets, Seattle, and failed direct snap plays. I’d like to see some kind of cumulative failure rate for direct snap plays in the NFL. I bet it’s like 80 percent. Every time they stick a running back in shotgun, the running back always looks like he’s thinking, “Wait, are we really gonna do this?” And then the ball is snapped, and the defense isn’t fooled, and the play gets blown to shit. It always ends up being a much more exciting play in theory than in practice. Even I get suckered in. I see the Wildcat formation and I’m like OOOH THIS IS EXCITING! And then it goes to Hell.


Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week


I didn’t goof on it at the time, but it’s worth going back and revisiting the infamous pool noodle story that ESPN fantasy expert and Yellow Bastard from Sin City Matthew Berry shit out back in November. This was arguably the worst column of the year… a story that pissed off so many people that Berry had to Q&A with himself the following week, apologizing for not realizing how horribly he would come off in his own story. And here it is:

So I am in the pool with my daughters, and floating in the pool is one of those noodles… No one’s around, so I grab them.


Okay. Seems fine.

We are back in the middle of the pool now (it’s been about 20 minutes) and I’m pulling them around again when a guy comes up to us.

Guy: Hey, those are mine.

Me: What?

Guy: Yeah, I bought those for my son. (He points to a kid, maybe 6 years old, at the edge of the pool). He wants to play with them now. I’d like them back.


Obviously, this is where any normal parent would turn them back over. That is not what Matthew Berry does.

This makes no sense to me. If he still wanted to use the noodles, why didn’t he put them on the side by his chair, where he left his towels and his kid was playing with a shovel and pail.


Because he was leaving them for other people to play with because that’s a nice thing to do. He didn’t count on shitheads like you seizing a twelve-cent pool toy by eminent domain.

Me: How do I know they’re yours?

Jesus Christ, Nancy fucking Drew on the case here. “Show me the noodle’s birth certificate, buster!”

Guy: I bought them at Publix yesterday. You need me to show you the receipt?

Me: So even if they are yours, you gave them up. If you still wanted to use them, why not put them under your chair?

Guy: Because I wanted to leave them so others could play with them.

Me: OK, great. My kids are playing with them now.

I wonder how Matthew Berry has made it as far as he has in life without getting beaten with a tire chain. I wonder if he just walks by restaurant terraces and begins eating any exposed slices of pizza ordered by random patrons. “What?! You weren’t eating it! It’s mine now.”

Guy: Yeah, but now my son wants them back.

Me: Well, my girls are playing with them now. I’ll be happy to bring them over to you when they are done.


You can’t convince me that Matthew Berry is human. He was clearly grown in an ESPN lab using DNA from a pubic hair and a wad of Papa John’s pizza dough.

Guy: Well, he wants them now, so I’ll just take them back now.

And he literally GRABS the noodle out of my daughters’ hands… But my daughters are screaming, they are upset and, dammit, I’m right. I’m not letting go. I mean, what kind of jerk just grabs a toy out of a kid’s hand?


The kind of jerk that has the grave misfortune of stumbling upon an oblivious dickfart who doesn’t understand pool toy protocol.

I am as angry as I have ever been.

Rough fucking life you got.

He is causing my daughters pain.

What pain? He didn’t break their arms. Just expecting the world to hand your offspring EVERY noodle, are we?! “My daughters are in PAIN because no one will give them a free car!”

I am looking him over. I can take this guy in a fight, I think.

No you can’t.

My wife comes up at this point.

Wife: What’s going on?

Me: Guy says these are his noodles, we found them in the pool, the girls have been playing with them and he’s trying to take them back.

Wife: So, OK, give them to him.

Thanks, honey.

Thanks, STRUMPET. Why not take that noodle and impale my heart upon it, traitorous wench?!


Anyway, I assume DraftKings helped Matthew out by buying him all the pool noodles he could possibly need after this posted.

Emmitt Smith’s Lock Of The Week!


“This week, I like Jim Dracula and Sixty-Niners (+4) to delete the Cincinnati Pringles at home! I know there’s been a lot of dryheaval in the Sad Fred Disco front orifice, with Jim Garbage out and Jim Dracula taking over. But I think, slowly but spermly, they’re turning things around! Blaine Gilbert has been steady as a cock! I think they’ll surprise the Pringles, who are gonna miss Randy Dalmatian! You can’t just replace a Randy Dalamatian with AJ Daulerio and expect it to be sceneless!”

2015 Emmitt Smith record: 8-9

Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

Jameis Winston. You fucking crab-burglaring, no-good tit-faced asshole! You’re playing against the worst defense in history, and all you can produce is one goddamn passing touchdown? I DIDN’T GO AGAINST EVERYTHING I HOLD DEAR AND DRAFT YOU JUST FOR THIS. Fucker.


Also, Melvin Gordon has been puke all season long. No touchdowns! Sure, he’s running behind a line composed mainly of eighth graders and old tires, but still. I EXPECT PRODUCTION. Everyone in fantasy is terrible and owes me money.

And reader Evan isn’t happy with Andy Dalton getting hurt…

Fuck Andy Dalton. Fuck fantasy football. I’m never doing this again.*

*of course I am.

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2015 chopping block:

Joe Philbin - FIRED!

Tom Coughlin

Mike McCarthy

Chip Kelly

Jason Garrett

Jeff Fisher

Ken Whisenhunt – FIRED!

Mike Pettine*

Chuck Pagano*

Jim Caldwell

Mike McCoy

Jim Tomsula

Bill O’Brien

Sean Payton

It would amusing if, after sticking by Princeton Boy year after year, Jerry Jones fires him NOW. As bad as Jason Garrett is at times, it’s not his fault that Tony Romo got murdered twice this season (with a third murder still in the offing!). And it’s not his fault that the team undermined him by bringing in Greg Hardy and then letting Hardy do whatever the hell he wanted. They’re gonna fire Garrett and KEEP Hardy, and that will be the most Cowboys thing that has ever happened.


Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Wade sends in this story I call DEEP IN THE BOWELS OF TEXAS:

I​ had just graduated from college and accepted my first real job in Dallas. Not knowing a soul in the state and being flat broke I decided it would be more cost efficient and social of me to move in with a guy on Craigslist that had a room for rent (don’t do this).

He was a nice enough guy, but he was fresh out of a divorce and raging every night as well as bringing home any willing female each night at 2am. The house was pretty old and small. It also had thin walls and wood floors. Needless to say I heard everything that was going on in the house and was forced to listen to drunken guttural sex every night while I was trying to sleep and adjust to my new existence.

One night about a week in, the usual was occurring when I started hearing some yelling. I opened up my bedroom door about the same time as he did. I watched him walk out in front of me in all his naked glory absolutely covered from nipples down in doodoo. Apparently he was going in the backdoor with whatever girl he brought home when she sprang a leak and blew up all over his bedroom. We are talking all over the place. The stench was unbearable and the mess was more than excessive. Unbelievably, he halfway cleaned up and then they continued to FINISH THE JOB whilst I lay in bed to listen and breathe in the foul air for the remainder of the night.

I got my own apartment 3 days later.

Good call.

Gametime Snack Of The Week


BUFFALO CHICKEN FRIES! Normally, I consider Burger King to be the least essential restaurant on Earth. And yet… these intrigue me. The giant nose ring on the chicken lets me know it’s edgy!

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week


Ožujsko! From Croatia! Reader Bill sends in this Eastern European atrocity:

My wife and I are on our honeymoon in Rovinj and we discovered that one of the (over 100 German) channels we get shows NFL games. Decided to grab some beer for the Eagles game. Two bucks got us these 1 liter plastic bottles because nothing says classy like plastic. It is actually pretty decent beer as it’s one of the main breweries in Croatia. Reminds me of Rolling Rock, but then again, I like Rolling Rock....


I hate Rolling Rock. Croatian Rolling Rock frightens me. But I do respect your football watching layout over there. It’s suitably bleak.

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!


“If you got a favorite Food Lion clerk, slip ‘em a fresh dollar every now and again. No one thinks to tip the Food Lion clerk, but you can get fancy apples rung up as cheap apples if you play your cards right. I made an investment in Rita, and it pays off every week when she gives me that 2-for-1 deal on Irish Spring. This is the stuff they should be teaching kids in school, see.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans

The Phantom Menace: Anti-Cheese Edit. I have a confession to make, which is that I went to the midnight premiere of Episode I when it first came out in 1999, and I enjoyed myself. I was drunk as hell, of course. And the theater was packed with fanboys and guys in Vader outfits and shit. It was a whole big party, and I definitely remember walking out of the theater being like, “Jar Jar sucked, but the rest was great!” I was walking on air. Sometimes the environment in which you see a movie has a huge impact on how you judge it. In a vacant room, I probably would have hated the fucking thing.


Since then, I’ve of course revised my story so that people don’t know I was sucked in by the moment and DELUDED (yes, deluded!) into liking a bad film. I was just happy to see a Star Wars movie exist again. And I know that critics already like the new movie, but I’d probably be in the tank for it regardless. I’m an easy fanboy lay.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“There are no good wars, with the following exceptions: The American Revolution, World War II and the Star Wars trilogy.”


Enjoy the games, everyone.