Soup to nuts on the 'Cam Newton: Phony' story

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Soup to nuts on the 'Cam Newton: Phony' story

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com
It's been a helluva week for Nolan Nawrocki. The reserved, respected draft analyzer for Pro Football Weekly and the author of their annual draft preview skewered the "intangibles" of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in this year's edition. I read it and wrote about it. Internet strongman Mike Florio of PFT linked to it. And away we went. First,Newton's quarterbacks coach George Whitfield weighed in with a failed Twitter takedown of Nawrocki in which he alleges Nawrocki has a rooting interest in seeing Newton fail and is trying toadvance his career with a negative review of the quarterback. That Whitfield is unaware of who Nawrocki is, the work Nawrocki's been doing for 10 years at PFW and, frankly, thatWhitfield didn't know before me what Nawrocki had written shows the quality of pre-draft advice Newton is getting. When Whitfield was done, Hall of Famer Warren Moon -- who's mentoring Newton -- stepped in. Moon embarrassed himself by alleging that criticism of Newton was rooted in racial bias. We're willing to give Moon a pass if he's oversensitive about how black quarterbacks are treated. He was a capable college quarterback at Washington that NFL teams wanted to convert into a tight end. Moon refused, went undrafted, fled to the CFL and became a legend. But he spoke ignorantly when saying to Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com, "I dont see other quarterbacks in the draft being criticized by the media or fans about their smile or called a phony. Hes being held to different standards from white quarterbacks. I thought we were past all this stuff about African-American quarterbacks, but I guess were not.Of course there is racism in every walk of society. Weve made a lot of progress in this country. But racism is still there. I just thought in the sports arena we were beyond it. I think the way Cam is being treated shows were not. . . . "As Florio points out, Moon need only recall all the way back to 2010 when Tim Tebow was getting mocked on the regular for being too pious, his convictions and motivations being constantly under scrutiny. Newton would need a month straight of that kind of treatment to even get close to what Tebow got. And Jimmy Clausen got devoured as well by Nawrocki on the same charges of being a phony. Moon went on to allege that neither Sam Bradford nor Colt McCoy got challengedlast year on their ability to run an NFL offense.Because they're white. "The thing that makes me laugh is the question of can he Newton come out of the spread offense? Can he run a pro offense? Colt McCoy came out of the spread offense and very few people raised that issue about him. So did Sam Bradford. Same thing. Very few questions asking if Bradford could run a pro offense. Some of these questions about Cam are more about his intellect. It's blatant racism, some of it."From Nawrocki's 2010 evaluation of Bradford: "Has not played much under center, operating heavily out of the shotgun, nor has made pro-style, NFL reads in OU's simplified offense."

From Nawrocki's 2010 evaluation of McCoy: "Played in an overly simplified offense that did not force the QB to learn the position and needs to be trained in the mechanics of dropping back from under center."One guideline for alleging racism is being sure you're right. Otherwise, it's obvious you're merely assuming the guy has it out for you because he's a different color than you which is . . . ta-dahhhh! racist. (Meanwhile, Ryan Mallett must be relieved he's white, otherwise Nawrocki might have written something nastier than "immature, is not a respected leader and character must be evaluated very closely" -- to say nothing of what others have alleged about Mallett). One last thing on this, it's amazing to me how news moves in 2011. A blogger named Lance Zierlein wrote, "(I)believe that the editors of PFW leaked Nolan's evaluation in order to draw attention to their product. I'm certain that was the case. And it worked. That wouldn't have been Nolan Nawrocki's call."Since the snowball started rolling with my blog, I can tell you it was the weakest "leak" you could imagine. After getting a complimentary copy on Monday of the PFW Draft Guide, I texted Eric Edholm, one of their writers and a pretty good friend to thank him for sending it because it's the best.He didn't seem to know it was sent to me, but said thanks. He told me to check out the Cam Newton evaluation. I did. My jaw dropped. I blogged. Then I e-mailed the link to PFT because we have a corporate relationship there and I'm personally friends with those guys. I knew a Cam Newton story was bigger news than just with my audience in New England. So Florio blogged it and the fire was lit. So, while Edholm told me to check it out, he didn't even know I'd been sent the copy. And had I not texted him, Edholm may not have alerted me to the scathing Newton review which, after I found on my own, I may have blogged on anyway. Or may not have. Interesting times we're in. Hope Nawrocki's wrong and Cam Newton has a wondrous career. But Nawrocki isn't wrong very often.
Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Bill Belichick, identified as "William Belichick," has been added to the list of potential defense witnesses who could testify during the upcoming double-homicide trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, according to the Boston Herald.

Per the Herald, the new list of potential witnesses for the defense also includes Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was Hernandez's teammate at the University of Florida. 

Belichick, McDaniels and Pouncey aren't guaranteed to testify, but their presence on the civilian witness list makes their presence in court a possibility. 

Hernandez's trial is scheduled to start next Wednesday. He's accused of killing Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Furtado back in July of 2012. Hernandez is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder Odin Lloyd in 2013.

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Personally, I would buy a crapload of stock in Cyrus Jones. In part because – after his nightmarish rookie season – stock can be bought on the cheap. But also because he’s too talented, too committed and too smart to suck like he did in 2016 when he handled punts like they were coated in uranium and never made a big contribution in the secondary.

(Listen above to hear Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss Cyrus Jones on the Quick Slants podcast.)

Because of his disappointing year, Jones is an overlooked player on the Patriots roster, but he’s in a pivotal spot. With Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon approaching free agency, Malcolm Butler’s contract expiring after 2017, Pat Chung on the edge of 30 and a free agent after 2018 and the other corners being Justin Coleman, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones is going to get his shot.

The reason I included safeties Harmon and Chung in the discussion is that when the Patriots go to six DBs, roles are less stringently defined. And because of Jones’ size (5-10, 200), powerful build and short-area quickness, he can be the kind of versatile player who covers inside against quicker slot receivers as well as being on the outside if necessary. Kind of like Chung can cover on the back end or drop down to cover tight ends.

The Patriots are confident that Jones will get it right. His teammates in the secondary are unanimous in saying he’s got all the talent he needs.  

PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:

But as 2016 wore on, it was apparent that Jones was miserable and let his failures consume him. Jones muffed or fumbled five kicks in the 2016 season.
 
By the time the Patriots played the Ravens on a Monday night in December, he was so inside his own head that he stalked a bouncing punt he had no business being near (for the second time that game) and had it bounce off his foot setting up a Ravens touchdown. That night, Jones exited the Patriots locker room and made his way to the players parking lot before the field was even clear of equipment.

Jones either expected things to come as easily in the NFL as they did at Alabama and wasn’t prepared to deal with adversity. Or the mistakes he made caused him to wonder if he really was good enough to play in the league.

Either way, Cyrus Jones was all about Cyrus Jones in 2016. And his comments to the Baltimore Sun over the weekend were evidence that the world he’s concerned with ends at the end of his nose. 

"I honestly felt cursed," he said. "I reached a point where I didn't even want to play. I just didn't have it...What I did this year was not me," he said. "I don't care how anybody tries to sugarcoat it. Yes, I was a rookie. But I feel I should always be one of the best players on the field, no matter where I am.
 
"But honestly, it was hell for me," he said. "That's the only way I can describe it. I didn't feel I deserved to be part of anything that was happening with the team. I felt embarrassed that these people probably thought they wasted a pick on me."

The first thing Jones needs to do this offseason is get over himself. He can look one locker down and talk to Devin McCourty about getting crushed for shaky play in 2012, battling through it and then turning into a Pro Bowl-level safety. He can talk to fellow Alabama product Dont'a Hightower about Hightower’s being benched in the 2013 season against the Broncos and labeled a bust before flipping his season around and being the team’s best defender by the end of that year.

But he’s going to have to figure it out. Draft status means nothing to New England and, as it now stands, undrafted corner Jonathan Jones out of Auburn has more demonstrated value to the team that Cyrus Jones does. In two months, the Patriots are damn sure going to add more secondary players.

This offseason, Jones needs to check his ego, simplify his game and simply ban outside perceptions from fans, media or coaches from infect his on-field decision-making.

His conversation with the Sun didn’t really indicate he’s ready to do that. Asked about criticism, Jones said, “It pisses me off. You can say shut it out or don't listen, but I know people are talking, and it's negative. I'm not a dumb guy. It definitely affects me. What it should do is piss me off in a way that I want to shut them all up."

From the limited number of times I spoke with him and from his teammates regard for him, I can confirm Jones isn’t a dumb guy. That doesn’t necessarily make life easier though. In 2016, Cyrus Jones’ brain got in the way. The Patriots need him to shut that thing off in 2017.