Cam Newton near the bottom of quarterback protection penalties

MVP has drawn just two flags this year, both nullified by Carolina penalties

Jason Getz—USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is shown on the sideline in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta

Cam Newton stirred up a hornets nest on Sunday by mentioning that he’s taken several illegal hits this season that haven’t been flagged by officials.”I see other guys get calls,” Newton said after the Panthers’ win over Arizona. “You don’t have to be an MVP. You don’t have to be this that and the third. Every hit they get that’s called, I can match a hit where I didn’t get called.”The NFL quickly denied Newton’s claim, saying that the league has missed just three roughing calls on Newton since 2013. Eleven quarterbacks — including Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Josh McCown, Case Keenum and Ryan Tannehill — have had more missed roughing calls in that time span.Two days later, the NFL admitted the hit to Newton’s leg by Calais Campbell, the one Newton specifically complained about from a safety perspective, should have been flagged.According to a North State Journal review of NFL play-by-play reports, officials have called roughing the passer 38 times this season. They’ve also called 53 unnecessary roughness penalties on pass plays or quarterback runs. While not all of those are necessarily hits on quarterbacks, a good number of them are. For example, a late hit on Newton in Sunday’s game, which was nullified by a Carolina holding call on the same play, was actually an unnecessary roughness call, not a roughing the passer.Incidentally, that was the first time Carolina has drawn an unnecessary roughness call on a pass play this season. The Panthers have also drawn one roughing the passer flag, which was also nullified by an intentional grounding penalty on Newton in the opener. So the two times Newton has been protected by the officials this season, they’ve gained zero yards on the penalties.The Panthers’ two “quarterback protection penalties” aren’t the fewest in the NFL this season. Oakland, Miami, San Diego, Atlanta and Cleveland have drawn just one roughing or roughness call, while Chicago and Cincinnati haven’t drawn any.On the flip side are the quarterbacks that the officials have encased in bubble wrap. Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota has drawn two roughing and six unnecessary roughness penalties this season.According to’s offensive line statistics, the Titans have given up only 27 quarterback hits this season, meaning the defenders are flagged nearly one out of every three times they hit Mariota.By comparison, Carolina’s offensive line has given up 46 hits, meaning that opponents are flagged one out of every 23 times they hit Newton. In other words, a hit on Mariota is seven times more likely to draw a flag than one on Newton.Incidentally, it also means that Newton’s postgame comments were correct. Every hit other quarterbacks get that’s called—37 roughing the passer penalties in the league this year—he can match with a hit that wasn’t called—44 unflagged hits.Blake Bortles has drawn one roughing and four roughness penalties, meaning he’s protected on one of every six hits.Carson Wentz (two roughing, three roughness) draws a flag every seven times he’s hit.Shockingly, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Washington’s Kirk Cousins were included on the list of 11 quarterbacks who have had more missed roughing calls than Newton.Flacco and Cousins are the NFL leaders in roughing the passer flags drawn this season, with four each. Throw in an unnecessary roughness call for each of them, and each quarterback draws a flag every nine times he’s hit.