by Jason Howard Kelly
via USA Today:
SEATTLE – Cam Newton was benched for the Carolina Panthers’ first offensive play Sunday night because he failed to wear a tie on the team’s flight from northern California to Seattle on Friday.
But, Newton explained, it was really about the shirt.
Newton described in detail late Sunday night the sequence of events that led to him violating head coach Ron Rivera’s team rule that requires all players to wear a tie. The problem, Newton said, was that he failed to pack a collared dress shirt that would accommodate a tie for the team’s extended West Coast road trip that began with last week’s game at the Oakland Raiders.
He was offered the chance to borrow a tie, but without a collar, it wouldn’t work. On short notice, he said he couldn’t find a dress shirt that fit his 6-foot-5, 245-pound body.
Go ahead and file this one under, “Reasons why your team is 4-8”. The Carolina Panthers’ playoff hopes were hanging by the tiniest of threads heading into last night’s prime time match-up against the Seahawks and this is what they’re worried about? The Panthers had a chance to potentially upset one of the top teams in the NFC last night. Maybe they still miss the playoffs, but a win over one of your biggest NFC rivals would serve as a huge bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Panthers and their fans.
Nope, forget that. Instead the Panthers’ head coach, Ron Rivera, decided that the team dress code takes priority over winning a prime time football game. Rivera benched Cam Newton to start last night’s game, and the result of that decision was poetic justice at its finest. Derek Anderson, the Panthers’ backup quarterback, threw and interception on the very first offensive play of the game. In fairness to Anderson the interception was not his fault as the pass bounced off the hands of the usually reliable Mike Tolbert and was subsequently picked by Seahawks linebacker Mike Morgan. Seattle was immediately set up in Carolina territory and was able to capitalize on the turnover with a field goal to start the game.
*Slow clap for Ron Rivera*
Look, I understand why professional sports teams have dress codes. It’s a way of keeping the egos of some of these players in check. The dress code is a small, simple way of team officials reminding the players, “Hey, just because you make the big bucks doesn’t mean you’re above the team.” That’s all well and good, but when Ron Rivera, as a head coach, decides that the dress code takes precedence over fielding the best team possible to win a football game then he has to own the consequences of that decision. This season has been hard enough on the Panthers, was it really necessary put your team at an immediate disadvantage over a neck tie?
Cam Newton has been the target of many a criticism throughout his NFL career. He dances too much, he smiles too much, he’s too cocky, he dresses like a Canadian Mountie gone rogue, etc… However, it is undeniable that Newton is the most important player on the Carolina Panthers roster. The team goes as Cam Newton goes. Thus, when Newton is on the sideline to start a prime time game against a high-level opponent it instantly sets the team back. Is it the only reason why Carolina lost that game last night? Of course not. The fact remains that Seattle is a far superior team to Carolina this year and they outplayed the Panthers are every turn last night. But maybe it would behoove Ron Rivera to worry less about neck ties and worry more about trying to win football games.