Thoughts on Cam Newton and Peyton Manning in the Aftermath of Super Bowl 50
Super Bowl Sunday is a double-edged sword. It’s the best sports day of the year in America, but it’s also depressing to realize we will be without football until September once it ends. Fortunately, there are some intriguing storylines to discuss in the aftermath of Super Bowl 50: Denver’s defense earned its place among the NFL’s greatest defenses of all time, Von Miller guaranteed himself a paycheck north of $100 million, and Carolina has a lot to be disappointed about after a dominant year ended with them coming up short of a title. However, the two biggest storylines stemming from the game involve both quarterbacks: Cam Newton and Peyton Manning.
Let’s start with Newton. The 2015 MVP was not at his best last Sunday, but he didn’t receive much help from his teammates. Carolina was dominated upfront by Denver’s pass rush, which led to Newton being pressured a Super Bowl record 21 times. Newton’s lone interception arguably was not his fault either, as it went through receiver Ted Ginn Jr.’s hands. That said, Newton looked out of rhythm right from the start of the game, and his confidence seemed diminished by Denver’s crushing defense.
Yet the talk in the wake of the Panther’s loss is not of Newton’s performance, but his postgame press conference. For those who are unaware, Newton was very sullen while talking to reporters, in which he gave only clipped answers before walking out prematurely.
Many people have taken offense to Newton’s press conference. David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel said this: “Nobody ever asked him to be perfect. But roughly 94.6 percent of observers, as well as most NFL veterans who cared to weigh in, expected him to be professional.” Newton has already drawn the ire of players and fans many times this year for what some feel are excessive touchdown celebrations and an overall display of cocky behavior.
The criticism Newton has received this year has been unwarranted, and this postgame press conference was no exception. I agree that Newton could have acted more professionally after the loss, but aren’t we just nitpicking at this point? The Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, gives testy, monotone press conferences all the time. I do not hear people saying he is unprofessional. Other coaches have gone on postgame tirades, like former New York Jets coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards. Do people consider Edwards, one of ESPN’s respected analysts, to be unprofessional and a bad ambassador for the game? I think not.
So if we do not want Newton to give mumbled answers and we do not want him to yell and scream, do we want him to be upbeat after a loss? Yes, it’s only a football game, but I am fine with the fact that Newton was distraught after losing the Super Bowl. It is not like he is the first player to ever express those kinds of feelings in an interview, just like how he is not the first player ever to celebrate a touchdown. Similar to how LeBron James was unfairly criticized early in his career, Newton is being treated in a similar way. Let us not make the mistake of putting Newton in the same category of NFL villains as a player like Greg Hardy just because he does not behave exactly like how we want him to.
Before I move onto Manning, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fumble that Newton didn’t pounce on late in the fourth quarter. Again, any criticism of Newton here is ignorant. To suggest that Newton doesn’t want to put his body on the line for the Panthers is ridiculous. After all, he’s launched himself into the end zone on countless times in his career. No other quarterback does that as frequently as Newton. The best explanation for Newton not diving on that fumble is that the game moves fast sometimes, and that hindsight is twenty-twenty.
Now onto Peyton Manning, his play was not exactly stellar last Sunday. Heck, he has not really played well this whole season. Despite the fact that Manning posted the lowest quarterback rating for a quarterback to win the Super Bowl, I have to give Manning some credit. He set a positive tone for the game with a few excellent throws on the opening drive, and while he did make a couple mistakes, he avoided the catastrophic ones that doomed Carolina. He also did this in the Broncos’s two playoff victories to get to the Super Bowl. So even though Manning was largely mediocre since he returned from injury, he was still one of the larger reasons why Denver won the title.
You would think Manning would want to go out on top considering he’s past his prime, and he will be forty years old by next season. Yet, there are rumors Manning might play another season.
If Manning doesn’t retire within the next month, he’s crazy. For starters, Manning can go out a winner. Only a few other Hall of Famers can say that. Manning also puts his health at serious risk by continuing to play. He’s only four years removed from a neck procedure that put his career in jeopardy, and he has dealt with various injuries the past two seasons. And, as I already said, Manning’s best days are clearly behind him. Despite quarterbacking his team to a Super Bowl victory, his statistics this year were horrible, and he needed a dominant defense to carry him to the title.
Above all else, Manning should retire because he has nothing left to prove. He has excelled throughout his long career and has cemented his place on the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks. He also no longer has the second most Super Bowl titles in the family- he’s now tied with his brother Eli.
So hang up the cleats, Peyton. It’s time to pass the torch to another generation.
Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report