Chansky’s Notebook: Panthers’ Poor Start

It’s what’s inside that counts for the Carolina Panthers.

The state’s pro football team is off to a worrisome 1-3 start after going 15-1 last season and advancing to the Super Bowl. Cam Newton is on concussion protocol and perhaps should have been since being hammered in the head by the Denver Broncos on opening week. And Josh Norman keeps ragging on his old team’s porous secondary play from his new home in Washington.

So what’s up anyway? As they used to say with a different meaning, it’s all up front that counts. The Panthers are getting poor play from both interior lines, which lead to less protection for Newton on offense and fewer turnovers on defense.

Obviously, opponents have studied what made Newton so great last year and have game-planned to stop him from controlling play on the field when the Cats have the ball. That has led Newton to feel less comfortable in the pocket and running for his life instead of running when he sees a seam. And Newton seems to get less respect from both the defense and the officials when he does take off to run.

He is bludgeoned like a running back, knocked out of the game in Atlanta Sunday while making extra effort to reach the goal line. Newton is not known as a give-it-up quarterback prone to sliding at the end of his run, which makes it illegal for the defense to hit him. And the refs seem to regard him more as a runner and ignore some plays that come very close to helmet-to-helmet hits.

On defense, the Panthers are not the same team that led the NFL in turnover ratio last year, constantly giving the ball back to the offense with great field position. Instead, they have five interceptions versus seven for their opponents and lost one more fumble than the other team after four weeks.

Their statistics are not bad and far better than a typical 1-3 record. The schedule is tougher and doesn’t preclude a Panthers turn-around. But it cannot happen without Cam and better protection for him when he does return and, definitely, more turnovers by the defense. That’s what made Carolina so great in 2015.

Chansky’s Notebook: Getting To No. 2

Cam Newton is trying to do something 37 other NFL quarterbacks haven’t.


All the stories surrounding the Carolina Panthers as they open training camp for 2016 are whether Cam Newton can improve on his MVP and Super Bowl season. Now, how can a guy who led his team to a 15-1 record and beat out Brady and Rogers and Russell Wilson as the best player in the NFL do that? Well, apparently he has to.

Of the 50 Super Bowls played, 38 of the starting quarterbacks never started a second championship game. And if you think Newton is a shoe-in to do that, listen to the names of some pretty good QBs who never made it past one. Start with Aaron Rogers, whose annual proclamation as the best quarterback in football hasn’t led the Packers back to another Super Bowl since their 2010 title.

Rogers, plus Colin Kapernick, Joe Flacco and Drew Brees are still active and also vying for No. 2. Among those who stopped at one include: Johnny Unitas (although there was no Super Bowl for most of his career); Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Joe Namath; all-pro lefties Steve Young and Ken Stabler; Donovan McNabb, Ron Jaworski, Boomer Esiason, Steve McNair, Jim McMahon, Jake Delhomme, Drew Bledsoe, Billy Kilmer and Doug Williams. There are other good one-timers on the list, but you must be over 50 to recognize them all.

Point is, Newton is no slam dunk to get his team back to the Big Game. The Panthers had one of those seasons in 2015, a favorable schedule, comeback wins and/or goal line stands and an underrated defense that played in the shadow of Newton. But already the national media is calling for Newton to improve his game in order to be back at Super Bowl 51 and, this time, win it.

They are saying he must be more consistent, but how can you improve on being the No. 1-ranked player in the game? He must figure out how to incorporate returning receiver Kelvin Benjamin into the offense, but isn’t that Benjamin’s job? And Newton must handle the bad moments better, like how the loss to the Broncos ended.

Guess that’s why reaching a second Super Bowl has been hard for all those stars who came before Newton and couldn’t do it.

Chansky’s Notebook: Unequal Playing Fields

The druggie can be suspended with his team but the deflator can’t?

What is wrong with this picture? Josh Gordon, the talented wide receiver but repeated drug offender on the Cleveland Browns, can serve his four-game suspension with his teammates but Tom Brady can’t have any contact with the Patriots during his 4-game ban.

This is just another example of the unfair, uneven and heavy handed discipline by the National Football League, which is becoming the Donald Trump of contradiction on how it handles its punishment. While Gordon can practice with his team but not play in the first four games, Brady’s absurd suspension for something, if anything, far worse than substance abuse turns out to be more punitive than missing one-fourth of the regular season. He can’t even attend the game as a spectator. Will they confiscate his 80-inch flat screen, too?

If Gordon keeps his nose clean and remains drug free, he will be reinstated for the Browns’ fifth game of the season after preparing with them over the first month. The NFL’s reasoning is that Gordon’s rehabilitation will be enhanced by having the support system of his teammates and coaches around him to encourage and, yes, police him. Very noble of the league, which can’t seem to make up its mind on how to treat drug abusers and woman beaters.

Meanwhile, Brady lost his appeal for his alleged involvement in the deflation of footballs, akin to a parking ticket, and accepted the four-game ban, then learned that he cannot have any contact with players and coaches on the Patriots while they prepare for and play their first four games. But the time Brady gets back up to NFL speed, half the season will likely be over for the 39 year-old quarterback.

Brady can work out at training facilities that have no association with the NFL. He can be the scout team quarterback for Boston College or for his alma mater Michigan. But how much help will that be to get ready for a pro game plan. He can even play pitch and catch with unemployed former teammate Wes Welker, which will do little more than keep his arm warmed up.

Do you see anything wrong with this picture? I certainly do.

Chansky’s Notebook: Deflate This

Five reasons why Tom Brady’s suspension could help the Patriots win another Super Bowl.

Well, at long last, the most trumped-up witch hunt in the history of sports has ended with Tom Brady saying he will take his appeal of Deflategate no further and will sit out the first four games of the upcoming NFL season. We may never know what possessed Roger Goodell to swat a mosquito with a sledge hammer, but here’s why, in the end, Brady’s suspension will benefit the Pats as much as hurt them. It could even help them get to yet another Super Bowl.

No. 1, Brady is suspended for games only. He can still practice with the team and could become the highest-paid scout squad quarterback in NFL history. Don’t you think New England’s defense will be better prepared with Brady imitating Carson Palmer of the Cardinals, Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins, Brock Osweiler of the Texans and whoever Rex Ryan decides to play QB for the Bills?

No. 2 If you were a 39-year-old NFL quarterback, wouldn’t you rather play 12 regular season games than 16, although it does represent an absurd one-fourth of the season, like someone missing 40 baseball games. With the right conditioning, drill and reps under center as the ban draws to an end, Brady will be fresh as a summer magnolia and rip-roaring ready to go when he takes the field at Cleveland on October 9?

No. 3, the Patriots open at NFC West champion Arizona, where they may have lost with Brady, anyway, then play three games at home with highly touted Jimmy Garoppolo under center. What do you think, 2-2,  3-1 and maybe even 4-0 with Bill Belichick having the whole summer to prepare to play with another quarterback?

No. 5 is Belichick’s preseason mantra all day, every day, going something like this: “We all know Tom’s the best quarterback and we hate to play without him, but let me tell you guys something: people are acting like this is a one-man team, that Jimmy some chick from the hen house, that our offensive line still sucks our defense is overrated. That’s what they’re saying,” Belichick will tell his players that, ad nauseam, “What are WE going to say in return?”

Undrafted UNC RB Romar Morris Signs With NY Jets

Invited to tryout at the team’s rookie mini-camp following April’s NFL Draft, former UNC running back Romar Morris was officially signed to the New York Jets’ 90-man roster Tuesday morning.

Originally a three-star recruit out of Salisbury High School (NC) in the Tar Heels’ 2011 class, according to, Morris saw his collegiate production peak in 2012–his redshirt freshman season.

However, a standout performance at UNC’s pro day this past spring–where he ran the 40-yard dash in an incredible 4.3 seconds–put him back on the radar of many NFL scouts.

With the added importance of speed in the NFL, a league comprised of the nation’s best athletes, the Jets may be hoping to find the next “Fast” Willie Parker.

Morris, a 5-foot-9-inch speedster, carried the ball 69 times for 386 yards and two touchdowns in 2012, while also helping as a receiver out of the backfield–adding 12 receptions for 204 yards and a pair of scores.

Never again during his time in Chapel Hill, though, would Morris account for that much yardage, as head coach Larry Fedora continued to rotate a plethora of other talented running backs–such as AJ Blue, TJ Logan and Elijah Hood–into his fast-paced offensive system.

RB Romar Morris celebrates with OT John Ferranto

Morris (21) celebrates against Illinois after scoring his only touchdown of 2015. (Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.)

This past season, Morris was given just 19 touches–10 carries and nine receptions. He also found the endzone just once in his senior campaign, accounting for only 64 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards as the team’s fourth option at his position.

For his career at UNC, Morris earned 13 starts in 50 games. He had 213 carries for 1,024 yards and 12 touchdowns, with 54 receptions for 499 yards and two TDs.

Parker, who displayed similar top-notch speed–played for UNC from 2000-2003 under John Bunting, and like Morris, saw his production drop off throughout his college career.

The Pittsburgh Steelers liked what they saw from Parker in terms of his athleticism, though, and decided to sign him to an undrafted rookie contract anyway.

He then made the team and ended up playing six seasons in the Steel City, rushing for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons from 2005-2007.

In 2005, Parker also helped quarterback Ben Roethlisberger defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL–a game where he ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run, still the longest run in the game’s prestigious history.

For Morris to even have a shot to reach the same lofty heights as Parker, however, he’ll need to first make the Jets’ 53-man regular season roster.

That process will begin during NFL Training Camps later this summer, where rosters are whittled down each week throughout the preseason.

Stroman On Sports: Not-So-Super Bowl

2015 was a good year for the Carolina Panthers, but it ended in disappointment with a Super Bowl defeat. Quarterback Cam Newton won the league MVP award, but struggled against the Broncos’ defense – and while he was gracious in defeat on the field, he also walked out of his postgame press conference.

Deborah Stroman is a sports commentator and a professor at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. She discussed the Super Bowl after the game with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.

Cam Newton, Sports, America…And “Disrespect”

For the good of the team…let’s disrespect Cam Newton.

Listen to Aaron’s notebook:


Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has led his team to the Super Bowl. He’s had an incredible year, and he’s probably going to be the MVP. But! He’s still not the NFL’s most popular player.

That, apparently, is Russell Wilson. According to the NFL Players Association, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is #1 on the list of top-selling jerseys. Tom Brady is #2, Peyton Manning is #5. Cam Newton? The MVP? Cam Newton is #22! Right behind Seattle’s tight end, because that makes sense. Cam Newton’s not even the top-ranking player on his own team – that’d be Luke Kuechly at #18.

Talk about disrespect, am I right? Talk about disrespect!

Of course…we don’t have to remind Cam Newton to talk about disrespect. He’s a professional athlete. He feeds off disrespect. This is not a Cam Newton thing. This is every pro athlete. Every time they win a title, it’s the same interview. “Nobody respected us. Nobody believed in us. Everybody hated us. It was us against the universe.”

Remember Muhammad Ali shouting “I shook up the world”? That’s what I’m talking about. Pro athletes, all of them, are constantly living under the impression (right or wrong) that nobody respects them, everybody hates them, everybody’s out to get them.

It’s a pathology! It’s a professional athletic pathology!

Except…for the fact that it’s not. This actually isn’t a pro athlete thing either. This is an America thing. This is all of us. You and me. We all feed off disrespect. We’re all exactly the same way.


Well – what do Americans believe in, more than anything? Two things: we believe in freedom and we believe in individualism. It’s a really interesting combination. If we believe in Freedom, that means we’ve got to be suspicious of Power. Political power, economic power, physical power, it doesn’t matter: we don’t like power, and we don’t trust people with power because those are the people who can run over the little guy. Those are the people who can threaten our freedom.

(This is why we’re always rooting for the underdog. This is why every Hollywood movie is a plucky little nobody going up against a big powerful behemoth. It’s why Star Wars is plotted out the way it is.)

But we also believe in individualism. We believe in every individual’s right to go out and pursue their own happiness, go after their own interest, work hard, get lucky, try to get big and rich and successful. It’s the American Dream. And if we believe in individualism, that means we also have to believe in ourselves. First and foremost. Love yourself. Look out for number one.

What do these two things mean, put together? If we mistrust power, if we believe in the little guy, and if we believe in ourselves, then we have to believe – all of us have to believe – that we are the little guy. It doesn’t matter how big and rich and powerful and supported and beloved we really are. For the American mentality to work, I have to believe that I am the underdog, I am the plucky little nobody, powerful forces are lining up against me, and it’s me (and my friends) against the world.

This is why (for example) our foreign policy often seems so schizophrenic. We don’t really know how to handle the fact that we’re the most powerful country in the world. But this is also why you find so many straight white men who say they’re the real victims. This is why so many Christian leaders say they feel oppressed, in a country that’s still 85 percent Christian. This is why you, like 90 percent of Americans, probably think of yourself as “middle class,” no matter how rich or poor you really are. (I’m with you on that one.)

And every time your team wins the championship, this is why it always feels like they overcame such incredible adversity. “Everybody hated us. Nobody believed in us. We were the plucky little nobodies. It was us against the world.”

So, here’s my message to Panthers fans: this week, let’s all come together and support our quarterback. Let’s get Cam Newton motivated. Let’s make sure he’s ready to play.

We’ve got a couple days left. Here’s how you do it. Go to Walmart right now, or Target, or the mall, and buy up as many Peyton Manning jerseys as you possibly can. And wear those babies around, loudly and proudly. Take pictures of yourself wearing ’em and tweet them at Cam Newton every day.

You want Cam Newton to win the Super Bowl? Make sure he feels disrespected.

After all…it’s the American way.

Stroman On Sports: Marketing Cam Newton

The Carolina Panthers are prepping for the Super Bowl and the excitement is building, but a lot of the public discussion has focused on an off-the-field issue: namely, how the public and the media treat the Panthers’ flashy star quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton is unafraid to be expressive and many have criticized him for being too expressive. Is the criticism fair? (Stuart Scott got the same bad rap when he was starting out.) Is there a racial component? (Are there equally expressive white players who get a free pass?) And from an economic perspective, how do the Panthers and the NFL market a player like Newton, who may well be the league’s most dominant, most visible, and perhaps most polarizing figure for years to come?

Deborah Stroman is a sports analyst and a professor at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. She discussed those issues and others with Aaron Keck this week on WCHL.

Bad Lip Reading Featuring Cam Newton

The Super Bowl is Sunday.

That means it is time for “Bad Lip Reading of the NFL.”

It is a new tradition.  But, it is a great one.  Bad Lip Reading videos have received over 500 million views in less than 5 years.

The newest one features NFL players.  You can watch it here.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton pops up a lot in the video.  Statements like, “There’s a snake over there.  I don’t know if it bit a guy, but I don’t want to be close to it.”  Later in the video, Newton meets a funny bird in his hotel.

Bad Lip Reading has turned this into a tradition.  Before the last game of the year, fans have been treated to “Bad Lip Reading of the NFL.”  The original has received over 65 million views on YouTube.

If football is not your thing, you can enjoy a variety of other subjects in “Bad Lip Reading” form.

Recently, they spoofed debates from both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans.

They even took on Star Wars.

Cam Newton and the Caroina Panthers will play Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday.  Manning has frequently popped up in these videos.

Julius Peppers A Pro Bowler Once Again

Former North Carolina standout defensive end Julius Peppers has been named to the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl for the ninth time in his 14-year career.

Playing at linebacker this year, Peppers had a resurgent season for the Green Bay Packers, recording 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

It was the highest number of sacks in a season for Peppers since 2012-2013, when he had 11.5.

The Pro Bowl selections were split into two teams, captained by Hall-of-Fame wide receivers Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin.

Peppers was selected to team Irvin and will start at linebacker next to his Packers teammate Clay Matthews.

In total, 23 players from ACC schools were named to the Pro Bowl this year, and 14 will participate.

Kickoff is on Sunday at 7 p.m.