Sunday, March 4, 2012

Auburn fans take issue with writer’s “dissing” of Cam Newton

Carolina QB Cam NewtonCollege football has many sensitive fan bases.

A few can be classified as hypersensitive, and Auburn fans’ reaction to Pete Fiutak’s comparison of Andrew Luck and Cam Newton highlights why they’re as over the top as anyone.

This should surprise absolutely no one. Objectivity is not to be tolerated when it comes to coverage of their football program.  Woe be to any reporter or columnist who doesn’t channel his inner Phillip Marshall in every story they publish. 

Thayer Evans. Joe Schad. Pete Thamel. Kevin Scarbinsky. Pete Fiutak.

Fuitak responds to a question on the matter in this post at CollegeFootballNews.com:


Q: Knowing what you know right now … do you take Cam Newton after his rookie year, or Andrew Luck? Or even Robert Griffin? Let’s say Cam stayed an extra year. Would Luck still be the No. 1 pick? - P.K.

A: If Cam had stayed for one more year Luck would still be the No. 1 overall pick. The same knocks on Newton that were out there last year would’ve been part of the equation, but I do think he’d go before RGIII. Had Luck come out in 2011, he’d have gone to Carolina and Newton would’ve gone to either Denver at the two or Buffalo at the three.

But the first question is interesting. It would be a coin-flip, but I’d probably go with the known and take a chance that Cam really is the real deal.

Cam had the best rookie season of any quarterback in the history of the NFL. That doesn’t really mean much, though, considering the team still stunk. Rick Mirer had one of the greatest rookie QB seasons of all-time and Vince Young looked like a world-beater after his first season – they didn’t exactly build on their strong debuts. The NFL has a funny way of adjusting to styles – notice the beating Michael Vick took last year - and the rushing part of Newton’s game has to become a memory or he’ll have a short shelf life. And it will. He has all the skills, size, and tools to become an elite pocket passer who happens to run once in a while. But can he be patient enough?

I’m still not 100% sold that he’s going to handle things all that well if the Panthers keep struggling.

There were times last year when Newton started to get a little petty and appeared on the verge of tossing his team under the bus, and there’s credible belief out there that he might be a wee bit too in love with being Cam Newton, Superstar.

But it’s not really fair to Newton, or anyone, to be compared to Luck as a pro prospect. Believe me, because I have all the scouting guides going back to the 1970s, there hasn’t been this much gushing over a prospect since John Elway.


Newton was the lightning-in-a-bottle quarterback who led Auburn to its first national title in more than half a century and whose father famously shopped him in violation of NCAA recruiting rules. Those two aspects of Newton’s one season at Auburn have the program’s fans on a razor sharp emotional edge. Anything less than gushingly effervescent commentary on his career or athletic ability is certain to be met with intense blowback from hypersensitive fans and this instance is no exception.

Despite praise for Newton’s rookie season, and despite the fact that he’d probably have taken Newton as “the real deal,” Auburn fans are upset that Fiutak doesn’t see Newton as an absolute football messiah. In likely reference to this ESPN interview, Fiutak notes that Newton has something of an ego issue. Fiutak isn’t the first to note that the guy the team refers to as “Mr. Mopeyhead” takes himself seriously and doesn’t get along with others when things aren’t going well. Fiutak does a good job of presenting both sides—Newton a gifted athlete and difference making quarterback, but he also has an attitude and he still has much to prove.

“Dumbass,” one Bunker poster says of Fiutak. “Douchebag,” says another. “Idiot,” says a third. A fourth Bunker poster wants Cam to be compared to one of history’s all time greats—Peyton Manning. Newton is hella good—after all he broke Mannings rookie records—but let’s not reserve Newton’s spot in the Hall of Fame yet, shall we?

“Butthurt… bitter tool,” says an AUTigers.com poster. “This may be the most stupid thing a man ever put down,” says another. A third opines and asks, “… complete fool. How does he have a job as a sportwriter?”

Auburn fans on Twitter weren’t much better than forum majorities. @TheAuburner called Fiutak’s answer an “unhealthy obsession,” and suggested that the writer’s motivations may have had a racial underpinning. There were a number of other tweets of the same type and ferocity seen on forums but I think you get the point.

To their credit, a small minority of Auburn fans saw Fiutak’s answer for what it was—an unbiased opinion based on observation of on- and off-field issues.

When a writer does an unabashed hit piece like Nolan Nawrocki did at Pro Football Weekly, the vitriol is well deserved. Any fan base righteously rises up to smite the offender. But Fiutak’s answer to the question was straight down the middle, and he still got hammered for daring to be objective.

Objectivity is not to be tolerated in the loveliest village. Just ask Evan Woodbery of al.com’s Auburn Bureau.

Exit Question: How do you think the Alabama fan base would compare? If an objective analysis of Trent Richardson’s prospects showed a good chance he might not be taken in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft, what would the Bama Nation’s reaction be? We’re not exactly known for our ability to take kindly to poor coverage, but how do Tide fans handle the truth?

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