Here’s the problem with being young: you’re not really that young.
Take Sunday, for instance. There was Cam Newton on Carolina, looking his most dominant since (perhaps) his rookie season in 2011, or even his final days at Auburn. This is Newton’s third season and it’s a pivotal one, because his 2012 was so damn disappointing.
It’s not that the pressure placed on his young and (it would seem) sometimes immature shoulders was accurate. But, when you shatter rookie records for rushing and touchdowns and you re-establish the career of Steve Smith all in one compact sixth-month period, how do you best that?
Last year, Newton wasn’t just lost because his Panthers were lost. He was lost because the NFL had welcomed a whole new batch of fresh-faced pivots, all of whom had more impressive Twenty-Twelves than Cam, considering they were studying for tests the Spring prior.
Russell Wilson in Seattle (who Newton went head-to-head with on Sunday), Andrew Luck in Indianapolis (who broke Newton’s rookie passing yards record), and Robert Griffin III in Washington all led their squads to their postseason, something Newton has been unable to do with Carolina.
(They have better teams, but the excuse isn’t the issue.)
Add to that roster Miami’s Ryan Tannehill – who could be playoff-bound with the Dolphins – and even the elder but acceptable Brandon Weeden.
Suddenly, Cam wasn’t young. He wasn’t a rookie. With everything he was supposed to bring, he was hardly viewed as a sophomore.
“Those high school girls, man”… he gets older, they stay the same age.
Newton also came into the league the same year as Andy Dalton, who doesn’t have the Auburn product’s flash but has been to two playoff rounds in only two years with Cincinnati.
And now, this year, E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith are the generals for two sad-sack New York state-based AFC East squads in Buffalo and East Rutherford. (For my money, Manuel’s the real deal and Smith’s the next Matt Leinart, but they’re both starting and they’re learning, so let’s respect that for now.)
Cam fell asleep at the wheel – although, to be fair to him, it was getting really late and he’d put in a long day – and he woke up to find eight other guys with as much claim to their roles as he had to his.
Suddenly, the future wasn’t in front of Cam Newton. It was facing him.
Every year, the prospects get younger. Every year, the once young get older. Cam Newton didn’t start his career with a Super Bowl win like Tom Brady did, he didn’t have to wait behind a fading legend like Aaron Rodgers did, he didn’t come about in the age of the pocket quarterback like Peyton Manning did, and he certainly won’t get to surprise us all after being banished from his first team like Drew Brees did.
Newton is a once in a generation talent, but our generations are ingesting and passing stuff along faster than they ever have.
What’s in today is old news tomorrow.
(Did you know Facebook isn’t cool anymore, either?)