First and foremost, a toast to the birthday boy: happy 27th birthday, Cam! On behalf of all football fans (or most, anyway), I can honestly say it’s been a joy watching you grow on and off the field over the last five seasons. You’ve successfully won over doubters and become a bona fide superstar in this league and arguably the face of it, too.
Now, even though it seems you have it all – money, fame, unlimited swagger and millions of fans around the world – there must be something you’re going to wish for tonight when you blow out the candles on what I hope will be a Superman cake.
If you’re having trouble thinking of a few ideas, here are some things you might want to wish for this year for your birthday.
1. A Clone For Post Game Press Conferences
Most of the time – at least on the surface – Cam Newton doesn’t mind doing post game pressers. He’s typically jovial and engaging and his bubbly personality has a chance to shine. But, of course, that’s only after a Panthers win, which there were plenty of last year.
If the Panthers lose, we see another side of Cam. You know, the side of him that said, “You show me a good loser and I’m going to show you a loser.”
So how perfect would it be to have a Cam clone that can answer the tough questions post-loss? I’m sure that’s at the top of Mr. Newton’s wish list this year.
2. A Healthy Kelvin Benjamin
Greg Olsen was Cam’s top target in 2015 and boy was he a great safety net. However, the Panthers seemed to be lacking that big play wideout, even though Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery both did amiable impressions of one through the year.
If Kelvin Benjamin can come back healthy and revert to his 2014 form, the Panthers’ offense could become even more deadly than last year’s version when they averaged a league-high 31.3 points per game.
3. Just Two More Wins
Cam and company were one regular season win and one postseason win away from making history on multiple fronts. They could have had a perfect regular season and a Super Bowl victory, but fell one win short of both.
This year it won’t be as easy since the Panthers have a target on their backs, but two more wins would put the Panthers in rarefied air.
4. Von Miller To Quit Football
Cam doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would wish an injury on anybody, so I think Cam will probably just wish for Von Miller to have a Rashard Mendenhall type moment and call it quits early.
Hey, you’d hope he quit too if he sacked you 2.5 times in the Super Bowl and almost single-handedly won the game for his team.
5. A Little More Help From His Offensive Line
No quarterback would ever throw their offensive line under the bus in public, but hey, that’s why you don’t even utter your birthday wishes out loud if you actually want them to come true.
Last year, Cam was sacked 33 times, good for 12th most among all quarterbacks last season. Sure, ‘Super Cam’ can take a hit, but the less the better this season, guys.
6. A Josh Norman Replacement
It seemed strange that the Panthers, who were one game away from being Super Bowl champions, would let star cornerback Josh Norman walk for nothing and not even keep him franchised for one more Super Bowl run if they couldn’t agree to a long-term deal.
Norman was an instrumental member of the Panthers NFC Championship team and he’ll be tough to replace. But, if Cam wants to return to the Super Bowl this year and finish the job this time around, he’ll need help on the defensive side of the ball.
7. Back-To-Back MVP Awards
You can be a team first guy and also love the individual accolades. For Cam, winning the MVP award probably pales in comparison to winning a Super Bowl, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Plus, if Cam can take home another MVP, that means things are going swimmingly for the Panthers yet again in 2016.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.