DeAngelo Williams wasn’t shy about voicing his opinions during his 11-year NFL career, and whatever filter the ex-running back may have had during his career has become non-existent since he last played in the league in 2016.
Williams infamously questioned the football credentials of Good Morning Football host Kyle Brandt, only for Brandt to remind him that he was a running back at Princeton. Friday morning, Williams shared some of his rawest opinions on Cam Newton, who he was a teammate with on the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to 2014.
“He’s a good quarterback, he’s not great,” Williams said of Newton on The Mac Attack on Sports Radio WFNZ in Charlotte. “He’s a great football player, but he is a good quarterback.”
ESPN’s Booger McFarland made headlines in 2017 for saying that “people he’s talked to in Carolina” questioned Cam’s leadership skills and didn’t think he was particularly well liked by “a lot” of his teammates. That’s a vague statement, but it’s part of a larger notion that questions Newton as the leader in the huddle, a notion that Williams didn’t go out of his way to dispel Friday.
Williams then shockingly told WFNZ, “I don’t know, because things progress. But when I was there he was still young and the leadership fell under Steve Smith. That’s one of the reasons why they got rid of Steve. I can tell you this, though: the entire time that I was there, Cam Newton was never voted captain but he had a captain 'C' on his jersey when we stepped out on gameday.”
Cam Newton did not wear a captain's patch in his first two seasons in the NFL. Head coach Ron Rivera did announce Newton had been voted captain for Newton's third season in the NFL in September 2013. He has worn the captain's patch ever since.
This, in itself, isn’t an especially controversial opinion. Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, has had one of the harder careers in NFL history to evaluate. He’s one of the most talented athletes to ever play the quarterback position. There have been individual seasons, like Newton’s 2015 MVP season, where he’s put that all together into being an elite quarterback. But he hasn’t consistently done that - or consistently led the Panters to the postseason - which Williams believes should be as much of a part of the discussion as his tribulations.
“I’ve got four categories; I’ve got average, I’ve got good, I’ve got great and I got untouchable. There’s only one quarterback that is an untouchable and that’s Tom Brady. Everybody after that - Aaron Rodgers falls into the great category...and what’s crazy is Ben Roethlisberger, who I love, falls into the good category, not the great. And his worst record is 8-8.”
“I’m letting you know right now, when Green Bay loses, who do they talk about? Aaron Rodgers. When the Patriots lose, who do they talk about? Tom Brady. The quarterback shoulders all the blame in wins and losses, why is it different for Cam?”
In 2015, Newton won the MVP by throwing for 35 touchdowns, while rushing for 636 yards and scoring 10 rushing touchdowns. The Panthers went 15-1 that regular season and ultimately won the NFC Title. Two years before that, the Panthers went 12-4 and earned a first-round bye in the postseason. In 2017, Newton led them to 11 regular season wins. But in his five other seasons in the league, the Panthers have never posted a winning record.
There’s a fair debate to be had about just how much of a team’s success should be placed solely on the quarterback’s shoulders, which Mac and T-Bone referenced in response to Williams. He countered by suggesting there isn’t another quarterback that’s considered an all-time great that has a resume quite like Newton.
“The facts are, he has had three winning seasons. What quarterback do you know that got into the Hall of Fame or was great that had a losing season in five of his eight seasons?”
Newton will only play at age 30 this season, which still feels young considering Drew Brees had one of the better seasons of his career in 2018 at age 39. Tom Brady just won his sixth Super Bowl in his age-41 season.
But both of those quarterbacks play a style that’s more consistent with having a 20-year career. Newton has seemingly taken a beating, meaning he may be further along in his career arc than most quarterbacks are at age 30. Shock value aside, if Williams’ point is that Newton’s legacy after his first eight seasons is very much a mixed bag, he probably has a point.