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Can Panthers’ pick of Norv Turner fix Cam Newton?

Can Panthers’ pick of Norv Turner fix Cam Newton?

When Norv Turner left the Minnesota Vikings abruptly in 2016, the red flags lining his route of departure had everything to do with the quarterback.

As head coach Mike Zimmer watched tape with his staff, he was frustrated over passing plays that were developing too slowly. He didn’t believe the team was committed to running the ball consistently. But most of all, he saw a spate of injuries around his quarterback and didn’t see the Vikings offense adapting to the personnel. The team needed to get the ball out faster. It needed to lean on the running backs. And more than anything, it needed to change in order to protect a quarterback who was going through the meat grinder.

This is why Turner and the Vikings divorced. The offensive coordinator whose best days continue to grow more distant in the rearview mirror couldn’t – or wouldn’t – adjust a pocket-passing scheme to protect the precious cargo that was planted inside it. And now, this is what the Carolina Panthers and head coach Ron Rivera are reportedly deciding is the next best developmental step for Cam Newton. To pair him with an offensive coordinator whose rigid system has thrived through pocket passers – and whose stubbornness when it came to adapting that system left him at odds with his head coach in Minnesota.

It’s a risky play entering Newton’s eighth NFL season. But it also might be the last one Rivera has left available. They’re going off the cliff with Turner in 2018 – falling or flying.

It’s a hire, that the Charlotte Observer reported as a done deal on Thursday, that leaves two opposite schools of thought on Newton heading into this offseason. If you believe he has room to grow as a passer, then Turner is the hopeful gamble, putting a less-than-flexible 65-year-old in charge of boxing Newton into the pocket and forcing refinement in his timing, touch and ball placement. But if you look at Newton and see a player who has been in the league seven seasons and is largely locked into his skills as a passer, then Turner’s hire is an impulsive reach of a head coach who has few ideas left on offense. And it’s also a potentially massive mistake.

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Regardless of how the data is chopped up, Newton is still missing something significant from his MVP season in 2015. While he was once again a bigger part of the running game in 2017, his 80.7 passer rating was the second lowest of his career. His 16 interceptions were his highest total since his rookie season. And if you believe numbers, it wasn’t an issue with the offensive line, which according to Pro Football Focus allowed the least amount of pressure that Newton has faced since the 2011 season.</p>
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