Is Dave Tepper Seeing Ghosts?

Cam Newton in Panthers jersey

“Did ya miss me?”

That was the question that newly re-signed Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton asked reporters today as he drove past them on a golf cart on his way to his first practice with the team. The ESPN article said that Cam had a huge smile as he said it.

I bet he did.

After 9 seasons with the Panthers, he was released after the 2019 season and signed with the New England Patriots in 2020. Newton struggled in New England going 7-8 in 15 games played, throwing 8 TDs and 10 INTs on 2657 passing yards. By comparison, in Newton’s worst statistical full season for the Panthers in 2014, he threw for 3127 yards, 18 TDs, and 12 INTs. (Stats according to pro-football-reference.com). The Patriots released Cam at the beginning of the 2021 season electing to roll with 1st round draft pick Mac Jones instead.

So, for over 2 months Cam has been sitting at home armchair quarterbacking like the rest of us. Or shopping for new Madea outfits, who knows? The point is, Superman is back. But can he still be super? He’s only 32 years old. That’s old for an NFL running back and getting there for a wide receiver, but it’s primetime for QBs. Russell Wilson will be 33 in November 2021, Aaron Rodgers turns 38 in December, and the ageless boy wonder, Tom Brady is leading the NFL in QB scoring in 2021 at the tender age of 44. (If you’ve been locked away in a bomb shelter for 20 years and just released today, yes, I am talking about that same Tom Brady). So, the question is, can Cam still be good? As just mentioned, he wasn’t in New England.

Hence his big smile today.

Halfway through the 2021 season, Cam signed a deal with the Panthers worth up to $10 million with $4.5 million guaranteed and a $1.5 million roster bonus. That’s double what the Pats signed him for to cover the entire 2021 season. I’d be smiling, too. No, I would be laughing. All the way to the bank.

Hey, I don’t begrudge Cam. The man should get what he can get, especially from the NotForLong.

But one must take a good, hard, long look at the Panthers coaching staff and management team. After releasing Cam in 2019, they signed Teddy Bridgewater to quarterback the Panthers for the 2020 season. It was a three-year deal with $30 million guaranteed and also a signing bonus of $15 million.

Hold on one second. Just threw up a little in my mouth.

With the exception of a couple brief flashes above mediocrity, Teddy had been the bridge to nowhere for the 2 teams in which he played for up to that point, starting only 34 games since 2014 and winning 22. As a Panther, he finished 2020 with a 4-11 record and the Panthers brain trust chose to burn that bridge after just one season trading Teddy to the Denver Broncos for a 6th round pick (one day I’ll write an article about my total lack of understanding of why John Elway, one of the greatest QBs of all time, can’t draft a good franchise QB. It’s truly a mystery).

The Sam Darnold Experiment. The Panthers parted ways with Teddy and in their infinite wisdom let the highly touted college quarterback prospects Justin Fields and Mac Jones pass them by with the 8th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Instead, they chose to sign 23-year-old Sam Darnold from the NY Jets who was literally abysmal in his 3 years there. But hey, it was Adam Gase and the Jets, so maybe the Panthers brass knew more than Darnold’s three year 13-25 record and 39 INTs as a Jet might suggest. They got him for $4.774 million and then after passing on Fields and Jones in the draft, the Panthers doubled down on Darnold by exercising his fifth-year option for $18.858 million guaranteed – which they didn’t have to do until after the season.

I’m feeling nauseated again.

In Darnold’s first 9 games as a Panther, his record is 4-5, having completed 59.5% of his passes with only 7 TDs and 11 INTs. It’s speculated that he’s seeing ghosts again, but those claims are unsubstantiated. The real question then is what did the Panthers management team see that no one else did during Darnold’s 3 years as a Jet? 38 games is a lot of film. Did anyone watch it or interview his former coaches and teammates? Also, why didn’t the Panthers bring in a seasoned veteran QB to mentor Darnold – a Derek Anderson type who stood behind Cam for so many years as a solid backup and teacher?

And back to Cam. In week 9 against the Patriots Darnold suffered an incomplete fracture of the scapula on his right shoulder. It’s joked that poor Sam can’t even complete a fracture, but that’s in poor taste and I am certainly above that kind of humor. Cough, cough…So, the Panthers called Cam, put Sam on IR and we are all caught up.

However, this whole circus is kind of funny. Fink, a fantasy football league mate, commented in our Discord chat yesterday, “David Tepper is currently paying Cam’s replacement, the replacement for Cam’s replacement, and Cam to replace the replacement for his own replacement.”

So Cam, if there is one thing that we did miss and that we surely will need to survive this asstrocious rest of season, is your ability to make us laugh, intentional or not.

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