Panthers: Better Without Superman

The Carolina Panthers will be more successful this season without Cam Newton. Tonight, they will win at home against the multiple personalities of Famous Jameis and his traveling band, yet Cam will be rushed back on the field, despite his early season failures.

But the Panthers are better off sitting the reigning MVP right now.

Derek Anderson, a journeyman backup, gives the Panthers zero personality, which is exactly what they need. No first down celebrations. No prancing into the endzone while down three scores and inciting a concussive hit (see: 2016 week 4). No sideline scowling. Anderson is an addition by subtraction.

When teams win, leading is easy. Showboating, celebrating, buzzwords and catchphrases; when you’re winning, all this is fun — expressions of joy that people gravitate towards. Everyone wants to follow the Good Times Party Boat Captain. When winning, few teams are flying as high as the Panthers with Cam.

But what can easily be lost in a dream season is the perspective on what it takes to get through adversity. The inverse of a win is a loss — the inverse of joyful celebration is petulant pouting.

A leader does far more damage to his organization when he responds negatively to adversity than he does good by celebrating success. In Cam’s case, this season carries echoes of his Super Bowl 50 shortcomings.

When the heart of your franchise goes in the tank on football’s biggest stage, including a choice not to dive after a key fumble, the party is crashed. The smooth sailing is over.

When so much of your season is free of adversity, like the 2015 Panthers up until their final game, you don’t know how to respond and get through it when it comes.

Leaders prove their mettle by rallying groups to rebound, standing bravely in the face of failure. And until Cam learns this foundational skill, his team will continue to reflect the boorishness and absenteeism that have been the trademarks of his leadership in 2016.

This year’s Panthers will certainly miss the playoffs, largely because when the going gets tough, their star is nowhere to be found.