What’s going on with Cam Newton? The former MVP is struggling like never before

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton leaves the field following a 20-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.
(Jacob Kupferman / Getty Images)

Cam Newton has lost eight straight games, the longest such stretch in his nine-season career with the Carolina Panthers.

Newton entered the season 121 yards away from becoming the NFL’s No. 2 all-time rushing quarterback; after two games this year, he is now 123 yards away from reaching that mark.

He has no touchdown passes this year; it’s the first time he’s had fewer than two at this point in a season.


During the Panthers’ 20-14 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night, Newton threw for 324 yards but completed only 48% of his passes, the first time he’s been under 50% since the final game of the 2017 season.

And perhaps most shockingly, Newton did not even touch the ball when his team faced fourth and 1 from the Buccaneers 2 late in the fourth quarter; instead, star running back Christian McCaffrey got the ball directly and was stopped short of the first down.

So what’s going on with Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 who led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance during his league MVP season four years ago?

The Times’ NFL writer, Sam Farmer, examines this week’s matchups.

Sept. 13, 2019

Nobody seems to know — or if they do, they’re not saying. Newton had shoulder surgery during the offseason and dealt with a foot issue during the preseason, but he’s not one to make excuses.

“I feel OK,” Newton said Thursday night after being held without a passing touchdown for a career-high fourth straight game. “You’re not going to hear no type of reasons why tonight didn’t go as planned. I have to be better, no matter what physical condition I’m in, no matter what foot, shoulder, I didn’t get the job done tonight. And it’s frustrating, I wish I could say something other than that, but that’s the facts.”


Panthers coach Ron Rivera said there was “no issue” with Newton’s shoulder and that the decision for McCaffrey to take a direct snap with the game on the line had nothing to do with the quarterback’s health or performance.

“We felt good about the play and it didn’t work,” Rivera said.

Whatever the reason, Newton hasn’t won a game since a 42-28 victory over the Buccaneers on Nov. 4 and his team is 0-2 for the first time since 2013.

“It’s time for me to look myself in the mirror and do some real soul searching,” he said Thursday night.