- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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Coach Ron Rivera said on Monday, 24 hours after Newton had four turnovers in a 22-6 loss at Arizona, that the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft remains the quarterback to lead his team into the future.
"Most certainly,'' Rivera said. "Without a doubt in my mind.''
Regardless of what anybody else thinks, that's the only opinion that really matters because it's Rivera's job that depends on it. He plays the players he believes give the Panthers the best chance to win, and he still believes Newton does that more than backup Derek Anderson.
He's right, although there were a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks calling for a change.
Rivera also acknowledges there are things Newton can do better, such as get rid of the ball earlier to avoid several of the seven sacks he took on Sunday.
"It's unfair to sit here and just put it off on one individual, one specific position,'' Rivera said. "Has he played better? He has at times. The biggest thing is he has to continue to work at it.''
Rivera would like to see Newton become more consistent, as he was during the first quarter against Arizona when he completed his first five passes for 70 yard, as he was for most of the 38-0 win over the New York Giants, as he was during a two-minute drill against Buffalo.
"There were some really good moments where he flashed and showed,'' Rivera said. "And those are things we're looking to get to with that kind of consistency.
"When things are going well and he's making things happen, that means the team is doing the things the team needs to do as far as the offense. It's really about the unit more than it is individually.''
Newton ranks 24th in the NFL in passer rating at 78.4, almost half of league-leader Peyton Manning at 136.4. That's not far below where he was the past two seasons.
But it's not good enough to win.
"When you look at the four games, each one had its own characteristics,'' Rivera said when asked to critique Newton's season. "When you assess quarterbacks you have to assess the rest of the team.''
And the team as a whole hasn't played well. Sunday was a microcosm of that as players dropped passes and linemen missed assignments.
But one thing you can't deny is Newton's desire. Twice in the second half he ran down defenders after one of his turnovers, making plays most quarterbacks wouldn't attempt or have the athletic ability to make.
"It just shows you he wants it,'' Rivera said. "He really does. We put so much on one individual. Sometimes, we have to look at the whole thing.
"He wants to win, and he wants to win in a bad way. And he's doing everything he can. Sometimes he may put too much on himself. Maybe he tries to do things further than he needs to.''
Left tackle Jordan Gross agreed.
"Cam is a tough guy,'' he said. "There's been a lot said about him, but I will tell you with my last breath he's a tough guy. He takes hits and gets up and keeps swinging.
"He was wiping blood off his hand one time in the huddle. I don't have any problems with him.''
And those are the opinions that matter.