The Carolina Panthers drew the ire of many yesterday when they asked their followers who they believed to be the greatest player to ever suit up for the franchise. Steve Smith, Luke Kuechly, and Julius Peppers were the choices presented. What got everyone all worked up was not who was included, but rather who was excluded.
Cam Newton was, in the eyes of fans and pundits alike, a glaring exception. Over the last 18 or so hours, the decision to leave him off has been labeled as disrespectful, and further evidence that Carolina, for whatever reason, is doing everything they can to distance themselves from their only league MVP in team history. Here's the thing, though: It's not!
The only part of this can be construed as a shot at Newton is the Panthers' decision to not make their poll a standard Twitter questionnaire, which has four options. They went with the Twitter meme format of the week instead, which asks users to either like, retweet, or reply to the tweet to vote for each option.
Declaring the Panthers chose this option for the sole purpose of excluding Newton is nearing Galaxy Brain-level conspiracy theories. This didn't go that high. It was just their social team trying to drive engagement. There's nothing more there.
With that out of the way, you won't find a Panthers fan on Earth who would argue Newton was a better player and more significant to the franchise than Peppers or Smith. They're both Hall of Famers who spent their best years with Carolina and, in some seasons were the only reasons to turn on the television.
There's an argument to be made for Kuechly over Newton, but it's not cut-and-dry. Kuechly spent his entire career with the Panthers (which isn't a fair knock against Newton, who was released, but remains true) and was the consensus best middle linebacker in the league for about two-thirds of that career. Newton was the best player in the NFL in 2015, much less among quarterbacks, but didn't enter the top-three conversation in any of his other seasons. Newton shined brighter during his time as a Panther, but Kuechly shone longer. I would imagine most Panthers fans would be split between the two if asked which should be included in a list of three.
The spin the Panthers tried to put on the Newton situation back in March remains strange. There may be some behind-the-scenes conflict the public isn't aware of. But this? Nothing to see here.