There was no single moment that makes the decision obvious. There wasn’t a spectacular play or a horrible play.
As Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen held what was supposed to be the final audition in their battle for the right to be the starting quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, there were just a lot of ordinary plays.
The Miami Dolphins dominated Friday's game and won 20-10. With Carolina’s defense helping Reggie Bush and Chad Henne look like stars, Newton and Clausen didn’t get any breaks when it came to field position.
Newton started and completed seven of 14 passes for 66 yards. He also ran four times for 16 yards. Perhaps the best thing you can say about Newton is that he went on the road for the first time in the NFL and didn’t make any drastic mistakes.
Neither did Clausen, who took over at the start of the second half. But Clausen was as ordinary as Newton. He completed nine of 15 passes for 69 yards.
So what does coach Ron Rivera do now? He already has said he plans to make a decision sometime in the next few days on which quarterback will start the regular-season opener at Arizona in September. He wants that quarterback to go into next week’s game preparing like it’s a regular-season game.
Nothing happened Friday night to make the decision crystal clear, and we’ll have to wait to see what Rivera decides.
But you want an answer now because that’s human nature. I’ll do my best, but this is somewhat of a guess. Based on everything I’ve been told by the Panthers since the day they drafted Newton, the hope has been that they’d be able to start him on opening day. The qualifier was that Newton needed to have a decent training camp and not make a ton of mistakes in the preseason games.
He’s qualified on both accounts, and Clausen hasn’t wowed anybody. We haven’t seen a real downside to Newton and we know there’s the possibility of a huge upside. I say the Panthers will decide to go with Newton.