Okay, bring on next year

Published 10:23 am Monday, February 15, 2016

“Deep within us there is a stillness and sanctuary to which we can retreat at any time and be our self.” – Herman Hesse

What a difference a year makes. Last February Russell Wilson threw the most ill-advised forward pass probably since Walter Camp hurled the first-ever one downfield in the 1876 Yale-Princeton game.

But afterward, Wilson sat in the interview room after the Super Bowl and fielded question after question, giving credit to the victorious Patriots. Win with class, lose likewise.

All season long, while the Carolina Panthers were winning, Cam Newton preened on the field. After victories on the road, he would disrespect losing opponents by tearing their banners down in their home stadiums. His rationale: if you don’t like it, then keep me out of the end zone.

Now he doesn’t like it when they did.

I can’t take anything from Newton after this past season. He was the brightest star in the football galaxy when he had the best team. The Panthers won 17 of 18 games before they ran up against Denver’s defense n Super Bowl 50. Anybody can be cool winning. But the danger in winning all the time is that you gradually lose respect for the guys across the field. And because no one wins all the time, everyone has to eventually learn to lose. The sad thing about Newton is that after Sunday’s game he advertised to the world that he didn’t know how to lose.

No less a great coach and motivator than the late Dean Smith once said, “Sports does not build your character; but it will reveal it.”

Newton was probably the best player on the field in every game he played from grade school to college, and in year-five as a pro. But apparently while his coaches and mentors were teaching him to read defenses and find receivers, they neglected the lesson about character.

Somehow, it took the Super Bowl to reveal it.

It’s probably going to take all off-season for Newton’s petulance to soften, and his lower lip to not form a pout. But there’s something else I hope he’s learned beyond humility: that you can rise again.

Denver lost Super Bowl XLVIII in almost as horrific a way as Seattle lost Super Bowl XLIX. One year later, they lost their playoff opener. But where were they this year? They were back on the big stage, and when it was over: smiling through the orange and gold confetti.

Only one team in history won more games than Carolina did this season without taking home the Lombardi Trophy – the 2007 New England Patriots, who finished 18-1 after losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

They may not win as many next season, but they do need to address their two biggest priorities: signing defensive stars Josh Norman and Kawann Short to long term deals, a la Newton and Luke Kuechly this year.

It may take more than two years before the Panthers get back: heck, their division of Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa is going to be tougher. Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Arizona will be improved in 2016, the Colts, Baltimore, and Cincinnati will have valuable personnel lost this year returning, and there’s always that “surprise team” just like the Panthers were this year. Are you listening Dallas and Washington?

“(Our front office guys) haven’t steered us wrong yet,” said tight end Greg Olsen. “The decisions made around here – while not always easy, while not always popular – have gotten us to this point.

“And the guys we know we have coming back are guys we can build around and are guys that are a big reason we’re here,” he continued. “And going forward, they are also going to be a big part of our success.”


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.