Cam Newton is a New England Patriot. Now, everyone who believed Jarrett Stidham would be under center Week 1 has to wonder if Newton can take Stidham’s job.
Now, everyone (including myself) who believed Jarrett Stidham would undoubtedly be under center Week 1 has to take a step back and wonder if Newton can take away the job that was nearly written in stone to be Stidham’s.
I was surprised that Newton was on the free agent market as long as he was. The story behind that was Newton was holding out for either more money or a guarantee at a starting job.
Well, aside from the incentives, Newton signed for the league minimum. So, if he’s not getting top dollar, was he possibly told that the starting job was his to lose?
Newton brings a lot to New England: Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 overall pick in 2011, Rookie of the Year, league MVP, and a Super Bowl appearance in 2015. Not to mention, he’s probably the most physically intimidating quarterback any NFL defender has ever had to line up against.
The other side of the coin is Newton’s character flaws. His maturity has been called into question in the past when he was often seen sitting on the bench with a towel over his head and ignoring other teammates during games in which Carolina was losing.
Newton has also had several bad interactions with the media — including walking away from the press box after his Super Bowl defeat, as well as insulting a female reporter by acting surprised about a woman’s knowledge of the sport.
Incidents like these show a level of immaturity that New Englanders aren’t used to seeing from their quarterback, and it’s reasons like those that probably led to Newton sitting without a job for three months.
Even during an age where quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Russel Wilson are tearing up the league with their athleticism at the quarterback position, teams still didn’t want to sign Newton — whose athletic ability is at least equal to Jackson and Wilson, if not more so.
Now, with all of that said, in what universe does Cam Newton’s personality, as a leader of the team no less, fit in with Bill Belichick’s locker room?
Belichick has been referred to as “Chill Bill” over the last few years after giving the team days off during offseason programs and just being a little more lenient overall, but going along with everything Cam Newton did and said in Carolina would probably result in “Chill Bill” going off the deep end.
I think what’s more likely is Newton was given a slice of humble pie this offseason and hopefully has realized that New England has a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl with the right quarterback play. Maybe he matures a little bit, and maybe “Chill Bill’ loosens up even a little bit more.
But even if both sides get along this season, the New England Patriots should still start Jarrett Stidham in Week 1.
Stidham has the advantage in this quarterback competition for a few reasons: He has a better understanding of the offense, he studied under Tom Brady for a year, he’s been a leader this offseason by conducting workouts with teammates, he has better mechanics and fundamentals than Newton, and the biggest advantage of all is the fact that nobody knows his true ceiling.
We’ve seen Newton’s ceiling — and as impressive as it was, you could argue that it was just a flash in the pan. Newton’s MVP season was the only one in his career where he threw for over 30 touchdowns, and he hasn’t thrown for over 4,000 yards since his rookie season.
Last year, during which he only played in two games, was the only season where he didn’t throw at least 10 interceptions.
One play that no one will forget anytime soon is the fumble in Super Bowl 50 when Carolina was down 16-10 with four minutes left in the game. Newton fumbled the ball a few yards away from his own end zone and clearly held back from jumping on the loose ball that was eventually recovered by Denver.
Denver then scored on the short field to put the game away with the final score being 24-10.
Jarrett Stidham has a solid advantage over Cam Newton to be the Pats’ starter
Stidham could be the next quarterback to sit and learn early in his career and then come out swinging once given the starting role — following in the footsteps of guys like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Lamar Jackson, and … Tom Brady.
Having someone like Newton to pressure Stidham could help push him to perform at a higher level: i.e. Drew Bledsoe backing up Tom Brady during the 2001 season.
Stidham already had an impressive offseason and preseason as a rookie last year; if he can build off of that and improve, then he should be given the opportunity to start this season. Signing Newton is a smart and inexpensive fire to light under Stidham to make sure he stays focused.
Stidham’s only competition so far has been a career backup in Brian Hoyer and two undrafted free agents. Belichick may have seen Stidham sitting a little too comfortable for a guy about to start in place of the league’s greatest quarterback of all time.
Newton could also be the greatest insurance policy ever. If Stidham falls on his face, Newton could step right in and win the starting job for the rest of the season and possibly the postseason as well.
Next offseason, New England is projected to have close to $100 million in cap space. The Patriots could give Newton a hefty extension or he could go back into free agency and sign for a huge deal with another team.
Either way, the Cam Newton signing makes sense to me from New England’s standpoint as a motivation/insurance policy.
However, from Newton’s standpoint, he could have a Teddy Bridgewater/Ryan Tannehill rebirth if he finds a way to play, or it could be damning to his career if he can’t beat out Stidham — and next offseason could be even more humbling.
Reports indicate that negotiations between Newton and New England had been going on for some time. Robert Kraft said that if Tom Brady was leaving because of money, then they would have figured out a way to pay him.
So, if Belichick really wanted Newton and believed he was the better option over Stidham, he wouldn’t have waited three months to sign him when he could have gotten the contract done in March … and Newton could have been acclimating himself to New England’s system this whole time.
I believe Belichick has faith in Stidham to step up and be the next guy for the Patriots. But like any smart general manager, Belichick signed an insurance policy to cover himself in case he’s wrong.
There aren’t that many MVPs willing to sign a league minimum these days. We will see if Belichick’s low-risk/high-reward ends up paying off this season.