The Patriots signed Cam Newton and I absolutely love it. It is Belichick raiding the NFL’s free agent bargain bin after the dust settles, which is his go-to-move. He ignored the baggage that comes with Newton, weird hats and all, and signed him because of the player he once was.
Belichick is notorious for frustrating fans by passing on big name free agents that command huge deals when free agency starts. Instead, he waits to see where players end up, and then pounces. See past free agent coups like Roman Phifer, Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison. And this Cam Newton deal might just end up being one of Belichick’s best ever.
Don’t Give Up on Jarrett Stidham
First and foremost, let me unequivocally state that Jarrett Stidham is the QB of the future in New England. The former Auburn QB is an absolute stud (technical term in scouting groups), is only 23 years old, and will be fun to root for.
He won over the coaching staff in a big way last preseason, playing so well that he forced the Pats to release Brian Hoyer. Considering the history Hoyer had with the Patriots, and the importance the backup spot had supporting the GOAT, that is a big deal. Belichick doesn’t just trust anyone with that gig.
Stidham Needs To Prove He’s Got “It”
Howevah, Stidham is unproven. His official NFL stat line is:
- 4 attempts
- 2 completions
- 14 yards gained
- 1 interception
Tom Brady is notorious for not letting anyone into games if he is still walking, no matter how lopsided the score. So Stidham didn’t have much of a chance to pad his stats and prove his worth. But when given the opportunity, Stidham didn’t pop off. I mean, the lowlight below speaks for itself.
This past Monday, former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia opened up on SiriusXM NFL Radio about Stidham saying:
[Stidham] showed in the preseason last year that he’s got some skills…There’s going to be some growing pains, there’s no doubt about it, but the guy does have skills. He’s got [a] great mind, he cares, he shows up early, goes home late.” – Dante Scarnecchia
Despite the doubts that come along with a second year player taking over QB1, I, like many others, thought that Belichick would go into the season with Stidham at the helm. It just seemed to make sense.
The Patriots have one hell of a group at running back, are returning a stout offensive line in 2020, and have one of the best secondaries in the league. The Pats could just put Stidham in as a game manager QB, lean on his teammates, and let the chips fall where they may in 2020. And no one would’ve blamed them!
But, in classic form, Belichick isn’t going to just hand the job to the kid. He’s going to have to earn it.
Why Cam Newton Can be QB1 in NE
Stidham has to earn the starting spot in a big way. Enter fellow Auburn alumn Cameron Jerrell Newton, at 31 years young. A big name with an even bigger personality, and one hell of a highlight reel behind him. Plus, he seems to be somewhat motivated to crush the NFL this year.
He was released by the Panthers after they brought in a new coaching staff, headed up by former Baylor coach, Matt Rhule. But that wasn’t a big surprise to anyone paying attention. What was surprising is quarterbacks like Phil Rivers, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum secured roster spots before Newton. And that didn’t sit well with him.
Random NFL drug test incoming! But seriously, Cam is going all in on this redemption storyline. He is one of the best NFL quarterbacks when healthy (I’ll get to that), has a Heisman trophy to his name, and has looked like a grown man playing against children at certain points in his career. And based on his current workout regimen, I could see that happening again in 2020.
Newton Is Far From Perfect
But, just like The Tune Squad needed Michael Jordan‘s secret stuff in Space Jam, Cam Newton needs a magic elixir of his own to become his best self. Last season was, how should we say, terrible for Newton. Just awful.
I, like many other fantasy football dummies, drafted Cam early because he would obviously rebound in 2019. After a lackluster 2018 campaign, which saw the Panthers finish 6-8 and Newton throw 13 interceptions, how could he not? He was going to use his failure as a motivating tool in the offseason! It would be 2015 all over again! Instead, he played 2 games and compiled this stat line:
- Completions: 50
- Attempts: 89
- TDs: 0
- Interceptions: 1
- Y/A: 6.4
- Rushing Yards: -2
Cam Newton: Injury Prone?
Not surprisingly, the Panthers put Kyle Allen in at QB after the second game and moved Cam to the IR with a foot injury in early November. They stated it was a lingering Lisfranc injury that was the cause of his poor play. A storyline that Panthers fans had become far too familiar with after watching Newton struggle back from a torn rotator cuff in 2016. Newton was then given the deadly designation of being injury prone.
But fans need to cut Newton some slack. It later came out that the Panthers organization itself might be to blame for Newton’s slow return from injuries. Per The Athletic, Mike Tolbert, a teammate of Newton’s from 2012 – 2016, had this to say about the Panthers:
“They’ve been doing him wrong timing-wise for the past two or three years, if you ask me. It goes back to his shoulder surgery. Everyone knew his shoulder was messed up in the middle of the year two years ago. But they wait until offseason gets ready to start to have shoulder surgery. Makes no sense. Timing’s off.
As soon as he got hurt (last) preseason against the Patriots, they were saying, “Oh, he’s got a high ankle sprain.” I looked at it on film carefully. It’s not a high ankle sprain, you could tell that 10 minutes after the play. You knew it’s a mid-foot sprain, Lisfranc, something like that. But you wait till December for him to beg you to have surgery. He shouldn’t have been out there Week 1 and 2. He shouldn’t have been out there probably till Week 4 or 5, at minimum.”– Mike Tolbert, former NFL RB to The Athletic
Not a great look for the Panthers medical personnel, and coaching staff. Could be a good reason they went looking for a new head coach for 2020, no?
Why Patriots Fans Should Be Optimistic about Cam
Now, I understand why some Patriots fans hate this signing. Yes, Cam Newton made a business decision in his only Super Bowl appearance by not diving on his infamous fumble. Sure, he is a 31 year old quarterback with a slew of recent injuries to his name. And I can’t deny his quirks don’t necessarily scream “Patriot way”, which values the team over the individual.
But he has proven he can be “the guy”. Just 5 years ago he threw 35 touchdowns. That’s insane! If he truly was just mismanaged by the Panthers, and simply needs an organization with a competent medical staff to get back to his glory days, I’m feeling pretty good about this.
Newton is a Low Risk Move
And do you know what the best part about all of this is? This signing could absolutely blow up in Belichick’s face, and it doesn’t matter. The Patriots can turn to Stidham for QB1 if Newton fizzles out in camp. They can take their time to see if Newton has any gas left in the tank, gauge his ability to mesh with the team culture, and simultaneously prove to the world they’re not just coronating Stidham as the heir to the QB throne.
Seriously, the worst case scenario is Newton doesn’t make the roster and the Patriots go into the season with Hoyer and Stidham at QB. They can say they left no stone unturned to ensure they had the best QB room possible, and give Stidham some confidence entering his first season as a starter knowing he beat out an unreal player to earn that spot.
Or Newton lights it up in camp and the Patriots get to roll the dice with Superman. Then we get to see the Patriots do what they do best and play to their team’s strengths, which in this case would be running the damn ball with Newton leading the charge. And I’m here for that.
So, as Tom Brady would famously say: let’s fucking go.
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