Why Did the Panthers Bother Spinning the Media on Cam Newton?

Cam Newton
Cam Newton / Cindy Ord/Getty Images

So we've had a wild saga over the last hour in NFL Media world. A day in which the quarterback carousel news began with Tom Brady announcing in no uncertain terms that he is leaving the Patriots continued with news that the Panthers were allowing Cam Newton to explore trade possibilities. It turned out to be totally unnecessary spin, as the truth that it was their unilateral decision to move on from their QB got out there soon enough and is a pretty reasonable decision in the first place:

Here was the initial report from Ian Rapoport, who as recently as February 25th (which feels like a year ago, but it's only been about three weeks) reported that the Panthers planned to have Cam Newton as their starter in 2020 provided he was healthy:

Red flags went up about this for me as soon as the Panthers announced this news themselves. Soon thereafter, Cam Newton fired up the Instagram hieroglyphics machine to dispute the idea that this was a mutual decision, saying that he loves the Panthers to death and never asked for a trade. He accused the only NFL franchise he's ever played for of manipulating the narrative, and he happened to be right.

The weirdest part about this is there's not a pragmatic reason for the Panthers to lie. The Panthers have a new owner in David Tepper, a new head coach in Matt Rhule, and a new offensive system under OC Joe Brady. The team missed the playoffs the last two years. Newton's 2015-16 MVP campaign and the team's Super Bowl berth that season feel like eons ago. There are lots of other enticing veteran quarterbacks on the market. It's perfectly rational for the franchise to want to start fresh, and anybody reasonable would've accepted that if they had just told the truth.

And what about the time they've spent with Newton made them think he wouldn't do exactly what he did? The organization bought themselves about 20 minutes of spin that wasn't in service of anything, and now they nakedly have no credibility with fans and, more importantly, players. That probably won't matter in circumstances where they're offering the most money by a lot, but it could hurt them on the margins in later negotiations. (Yes, if they win football games, no one will ultimately care.)

From my view, this unnecessary manipulation of the media was bad strategy by the Panthers, and it's going to come back to haunt them as far as getting any slack for how long their rebuild can take.