Dowson: Who will be the new face of the NFL?

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Blake Dowson, [email protected]

Every Tuesday, a member of the DI sports team will pen a column about the sports world. It could be Iowa-centric, it could be focused on a professional league or team; we’re not going to put many limits on it. Enjoy.

The NFL seems set for a changing of the guard. If five-time MVP and now two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning decides to hang it up this off-season, there will, in all likelihood, be an opening for the figurehead of the most popular sports league in America.

Yes, Tom Brady is still around and shows no signs of slowing down in the next two or three years. But if the NFL wants a leader for the future, it must look to the younger generation.

For many people, the obvious answers to the question are Cam Newton and Odell Beckham Jr. After all, they are bringing kids into the game like never before. Never has the country been so enveloped by dances such as the “whip” and the “dab.” For heaven’s sake, Betty White was dabbing during the Super Bowl.

Newton and Beckham were No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in jersey sales this season. Beckham has set the all-time receiving yards mark for a player in his first two seasons, breaking Randy Moss’ record. And Newton is the newly crowned MVP, after a year full of glitz, glam, touchdowns, and two-steps.

So why am I not ready to hand the reins to Newton and Beckham quite yet? I’ve seen things in these two budding stars that make me question whether they have the maturity to carry themselves in the midst of adversity.

After being defeated in Super Bowl 50, Newton sat at his press conference and didn’t say much of anything until a question about him seeing anything during the game he didn’t expect came up. Newton muttered out an answer about dropped passes and sacks before adding errant throws at the end.

Newton failed to show the amount of professionalism it takes to be the figure of the NFL. No one doubts losing the Super Bowl is a tough pill to swallow, but the way Newton handled himself fell way below the superstar standard. His teammates did not play well. But as the quarterback, as the face of the Carolina franchise, he cannot place blame. Manning doesn’t do that. Neither did John Elway. Or Jerry Rice, or Jim Brown.

In Week 15 of the regular season in a matchup against Newton’s Carolina Panthers, Beckham was seen taking numerous shots at cornerback Josh Norman’s head, one with his fist and one with his helmet.

Beckham was not thrown out of the game, though the overwhelming consensus was that he should have been. The two jawed at each other before and during the game before Beckham reacted. Beckham said after the game Norman brought a baseball bat onto the field during pregame, and he felt threatened.

Beckham’s lapse of judgment against the Panthers shows he still has a long way to go in his maturation process as well.

The second-year receiver out of LSU has played himself into an elite group of pass-catchers, no doubt. But until he can handle himself when a cornerback gets in his face, Beckham may just be the next Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson.

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