It’s not all that difficult to explain the rather obvious inconsistencies in how Cam Newton is treated by the NFL’s officials compared to the more traditional pocket-style passer.
The latest uproar stems from a number of helmet-to-helmet hits the reigning MVP suffered in Carolina’s season-opening loss in Denver.
Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating and de facto spokesman for the way this game is legislated, admitted to the fact his underlings missed one egregious hit in which Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall launched himself at the 6-foot-5, 260-pound signal caller.
“We reviewed all of the hits in the game, just like we do for every other game,” Blandino said on the NFL Network Tuesday, “and there was one call that we felt was missed.”
One call over 60 minutes is actually pretty good, but Newton has become a polarizing figure because of a number of factors that includes everything from his personality to his style of play and even his race.
In a lot of ways fans who complain about officiating are really bellyaching about the rules themselves and failing to realize the zebras on the field are just executing what they were told to do.
For instance, the flag was thrown on another obvious personal foul on Newton late in the game but was offset by his own penalty on the same play, intentional grounding. People appalled by the outcome of that are actually complaining about the piece of legislation that forces independent arbiters to render the decision that they ultimately did, not a “mistake.”
And there is a difference, or at least there should be.
“That’s the rule,” Blandino explained. “If it were a 5-yard penalty on the offense, say it was an illegal formation or an illegal shift, that 5-yard penalty would go away and only the 15-yard personal foul would be enforced. But if it’s a 10-yard penalty or a foul like grounding, the fouls offset.”
Football is such an emotional game that even those who should know better like Panthers coach Ron Rivera intimated his superstar doesn’t get the same benefit of the doubt as other established stars.
There is little doubt that Newton gets a longer rope to extend plays because of his size, athletic ability and strength, but that cuts both ways. Sure he’s going to take some big hits now and again, but he’s also going to break free and make a play on occasions where the whistle would have been blown, ostensibly to “protect” another QB.
Blandino did his best to explain the contradiction, but it’s no surprise he gets lost in semantics because his reign at the top of the league’s officiating department has been defined by arcane regulation.
“It’s basically the posture will dictate his protection,” Blandino said. “So if (Newton’s) in running posture, ball tucked, advancing it as a runner, he’s treated like a runner and he doesn’t get special protection. If he’s in a passing posture, whether he’s inside the pocket/outside the pocket, he’s still going to get passer protection — head, neck, crown to the body — those types of protection. So it’s the posture that dictates the protection.”
Or in layman’s terms, if he was an immobile signal caller who stays in the pocket, the flags will (or should) be flying if anyone is near Newton’s helmet.
“You can be scrambling in the pocket/outside the pocket, tuck the ball and then bring the ball up to throw and throw a forward pass. So you go from a runner to a passer again, so it can go back and forth,” Blandino continued.
It’s a double-edged sword, but neither of those edges has anything to do with any conspiracy or dislike of Newton.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.