SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As Panthers quarterback Cam Newton approached the interview podium following the Panthers' 24-10 loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50, he was being watched by a pair of friends fully aware of how disheartened he was.
The league's Most Valuable Player settled into his uncomfortable interview chair, arms at his side with the hood of his sweatshirt swooped over his head. At the same time, offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey were trying to get his attention a few yards to Newton's left.
Shula, standing on another podium, appeared to be signaling to his quarterback one last time this season. He looked to be motioning to Newton, asking him to remove his hood. Shula, eyes directly at the quarterback, made the motion a few times before trying to listen in.
Newton did not abide. Newton was also probably not looking. This was painful and he wanted it to end quickly.
"We lost," Newton said when asked if he could put the disappointment into words.
"Nope," he said, when asked if there was anything in particular about the game he could remember.
"They just played better than us," he added. "I don't know what you want me to say, I'm sorry. They made more plays than us, and that's what it came down to. We had opportunities. It wasn't nothing special that they did. We dropped balls, we turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes. That's it, they scored more points than us."
The whole thing lasted around two and a half minutes. Newton walked by his coaches on the way back to his locker stall.
This will go down as an all-out indictment of the Panthers quarterback, but before taking aim, consider why his coaches were there in the first place. Was Newton being immature and petulant, or, after a season where he redefined what it meant to be a mobile quarterback, was he just that upset?
Was he thumbing his nose at the same people who criticized his dancing, celebratory attitude and frankness when it comes to race in sports? Or was he simply trying to process what he'd seen -- an anomaly during a season where the Panthers almost went undefeated in the regular season.
Having a coordinator and position coach watch a player at his post-game press conference is a fairly unusual occurrence, especially in the chaotic, wide-open warehouse setting of a Super Bowl interview session.
All season long, we've heard about how close the quarterback room was. We've heard how revolutionary Shula was, and how Dorsey was a rising star in the business. And maybe that's why they knew Newton would be at rock bottom. They knew him that well.
"As hard as it will be, you have to remember the good things we've done," Shula said.
He added: "I think that, like I said, there are differences that are so little at the end of each and every game, each and every play. Field position, momentum, things like that. But you have to find a way to be on the plus side of that."
At his own podium session, Shula talked slowly. He closed his eyes for extended periods of time and he tried his best to remember the good times, perhaps foreshadowing Newton's press conference to come. He has been through this before and he grew up in a football family. He knew that in order to avoid a character assassination that there's a painful delicacy to these things, no matter how unfair the rapid-fire questioning of a magnanimous loss is.
Newton, who passed for 3,837 total yards, ran and passed for 45 total touchdowns and threw just 10 interceptions this season, showed us a different way to do things this season. And being upset about one bad night -- Newton went 18-41 for 265 yards and an interception in the face of a historically relentless Broncos pass rush shouldn't change things.
Shula and Dorsey certainly didn't want it to.