(Bob Leverone / AP)

After a glittering rookie season, Cam Newton has been blamed for the Carolina Panthers’ struggles this season, drawing criticism that Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon says is unfair and carries racial undertones.

“The big thing with him is he doesn’t like losing,” Moon told Yahoo’s Mike Silver. “He doesn’t handle it very well. I don’t see anything wrong with that; it’s okay not to like losing. You just can’t show it as the leader of the football team. You have to project optimism and calmness to the players around you. You can’t be demoralized. He’s not showing optimism. He’s looking puzzled. He looks like a guy who doesn’t have all the answers, and his teammates see that.”

After Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Newton said he was going to “bring in a suggestion box” to seek answers for the Panthers’ problems. Last month, teammate Steve Smith told him to stop sulking with a towel over his head during losses. Moon, who mentored Newton before he was selected by the Panthers with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft and is now mentoring Seattle Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson, admitted Newton needs to conquer his emotions.

“You wouldn’t know if we won or lost when you listen to [Wilson] talk after a game,” Moon said. “That’s what you want. Listen to Tom Brady or Peyton Manning after a game. They keep everything even-keeled. They never get too high or too low.

“Cam’s an emotional player. He needs to learn to saddle that. If I was to talk to him – and I need to give him a call – I would tell him his demeanor’s got to change in the face of adversity. It’s more of a maturity thing; he’s got to grow up in this area. He’s got to get realistic that they’re not a good football team right now and it’s going to be tough to win as much as he thinks he should, until they get some more good players.”

One of the problems, Moon says, is that Newton is compared most often with only black quarterbacks, like NFL washout Vince Young.

“If you want to compare him to someone because of his demeanor, compare him to Jay Cutler. There are a lot of guys who whine and moan. Cam’s not biting anybody’s head off or pushing his linemen [as Cutler did with J’Marcus Webb]. He’s just disgruntled, and not handling losing well, because, think about it, he basically didn’t lose in college,” Moon said.

“I don’t think Cam’s as bad as Cutler, because Cutler looks like he doesn’t give a damn sometimes, or he’s yelling and cussing at someone. Cam, he just looks down when they’re losing.”

Moon, who said he plans to talk to Newton, has a theory about why Newton has become petulant and is more polarizing than popular this season.

“I think a lot of this is because so many people want to say ‘I told you so’ about him but couldn’t because he was so good last year,” Moon said. “I think people are overreacting. How can he be a bust? He just had one of the great years a rookie has ever had, and now he can’t play? Come on.”

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