Here’s a decision Ron Rivera would probably like back.
When the Carolina Panthers took the field for their first possession against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Derek Anderson came out to lead the offense. Bizarrely, Cam Newton sat on the bench. Was he hurt? Was it a trick play of some sort? No, Newton’s ass was glued to the bench intentionally. According to the Charlotte Observer, the star QB didn’t start for the first time in his career while healthy due to “disciplinary reasons.”
The decision immediately backfired.
On the first play of the game, Anderson’s catchable pass bounced off the hands off fullback Mike Tolbert and into the hands of Seahawks linebacker Mike Morgan. Seattle scored an easy field goal due to the pick.
With Carolina still in playoff contention in the NFC South, despite a 4-7 record, starting Anderson over Newton is baffling this late in the season. Perhaps more baffling is the decision to pass the ball instead of run it. Was Rivera trying to send a further message that Newton was wrong to do… whatever he did? Rivera’s got plenty of egg on his face for the decision.
If Newton violated team rules, this is a crap punishment. Benching him for a single play, especially during the tone-setting first drive doesn’t accomplish squat. If he was benched for the game, the half or even the first quarter, then it would send a message. Instead, Rivera made a poor decision worse. That’s not to justify whatever Newton did (whatever it was), but clearly, it wasn’t bad enough to get him in serious trouble.
Update: Apparently, Newton was benched for a “dress-code violation,” whatever that means.
Update No. 2: He didn’t wear a tie. Seriously?
Cam Newton violated the team dress code by not wearing a tie, per source. #CARvsSEA
— Ashley Stroehlein (@ashstro) December 5, 2016