During last season’s training camp at Wofford College, no one in attendance expected there to be serious questions surrounding Cam Newton’s starting position on the roster in the weeks to come. Instead, they watched as he tested his surgically repaired shoulder, throwing 50 yard bombs to wideout Curtis Samuel in stride. Newton was back in form and all was right in Carolina.
Fast forward to the third week of the regular season, and Kyle Allen put the NFL on notice with 261 yards through the air and 4 touchdowns in a surprising 38-20 win over the Cardinals. While the win was impressive — especially for the undrafted QB out of Houston — it was primarily set up by the strong performance of Christian McCaffrey, who burned the defense for 153 rushing yards.
That’s when the rumors started: “Is Cam Done In Carolina?”
While it was far from certain, as a backup QB burned a defense that had no solid film on his style or an idea of what the new Panthers' offense would be, that didn’t stop the media from creating story lines surrounding "The NFL's New Quarterback Controversy" and running with it.
Newton was sidelined for certain, but no one knew how bad the injury was at the time. In an interview, he said that he was working towards his return, but that it could take some time before fans would see him on the field again. "It could very well be a week. Or two weeks. It could be three weeks, it could be four weeks, it could be six weeks. But I have to understand and know if it takes that time I trust in this team that they will — we will — still be in a great situation by the time I get back."
For four straight weeks, it appeared that Newton was correct. The Panthers were in a great situation, with Kyle Allen leading the offense to close wins while the team waited for their quarterback's return. The passing attack had slowed down production-wise from Allen's first performance, with only three touchdowns in three games, but the record spoke for itself: 4-0. The major positive was that he hadn’t thrown any interceptions, though fumbles had become a problem for him.
Despite reasons to be concerned, fans began to believe that there was something brewing in Carolina — that a former NFL MVP could be replaced by an unknown backup just five starts into Allen’s professional career. Media outlets constantly talked about how Newton was 0-8 over his last eight starts, and how Allen had won his first five, dating back to a Week 17 start in 2018. The Panthers were winning, and that’s all that mattered. The hype was at a fever pitch.
Then, the other shoe dropped. The San Francisco 49ers dominated the 4-2 Panthers by a score of 53-13. Carolina was dismantled in all areas of the game. Allen floundered, throwing 37 passes for 158 yards and 3 interceptions. The defense was nonexistent as well. Nothing was working. Everything began to fall apart.
Feeling that it was too similar to a game against the Steelers the year before — after which the Panthers nosedived from a 6-2 start to a 7-9 finish — the locker room became inspired to finish out the season strongly.
Unfortunately for Carolina, this would not be the case. The bad news started with Cam Newton being shut down and placed on the injured reserve a week after the team’s trip to San Francisco, effectively ending his season. Carolina would win their next game against the Titans 30-20, but then lost seven straight games, tumbling further and further down the standings to close out the year.
One aspect that was too familiar for the team was the six total losses by one score, which was only one less loss in that category from the year before. For two straight seasons, the team had fallen apart due to Cam Newton’s season ending injuries, with both campaigns including seven game losing streaks.
Ending the season with a 5-8 record as a starter, 17 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and 13 fumbles, the Kyle Allen experiment was over in Carolina.