Today the unbelievable happened. In a surprising turn of events, the New England Patriots released former MVP QB Cam Newton. When I saw the news this morning, saying I was shocked doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I can honestly say I never saw it coming. Sure, there were rumors that Cam was going to lose the starting gig to rookie Mac Jones. Those rumors were at least conceivable. To totally cut him from the roster? I would never have believed it.
Yet, here we are. Cam Newton is no longer a New England Patriot. Mac Jones will be the QB1 for New England moving forward. The quarterback battle is officially over. It’s time to breakdown what exactly happened.
The Fall of Cam Newton
Cam Newton entered the preseason as the odds on favorite to win the starting job for the Patriots. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the job was his. Belichick said it from the beginning that it was his. So what happened?
What Went Wrong?
I think a couple of things occurred. For starters, I do think the vaccination issue did have some impact. Not as much as some people are making it out to be, but I think it’s pretty obvious people in the building were aggravated with it.
The fallout from the whole vaccination incident, more than the coaches and owners being frustrated, was that it gave Mac Jones a chance to get a lot of first-team reps. With Newton sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, Jones had the chance to show the Patriots exactly what they had.
In the midst of a QB battle, you don’t want to give your opponent an inch of leverage. Cam gave Mac a couple feet.
Second off, I think the memory of Newton’s 2020 season is fresh in people’s minds. I don’t put a lot of that blame on Newton, there were a lot of factors that led to that dissapointing season. If you want to listen to me go in depth on why I think Cam deserves more credit for 2020, you can listen here.
No matter what the case may be, the bottom line is his play wasn’t up to the standard that was expected. In 2020, his age and laundry list of injuries look like they caught up with him at times.
Belichick and McDaniels assuredly didn’t forget about it. So I believe the fear of that same outcome taking place again in 2021 had an impact on the decision.
Finally, I think what it really comes down to is that Mac Jones just looked so good. He outperformed all expectations and was the highest rated preseason rookie QB according to PFF since Patrick Mahomes. That’s pretty decent company I’d say.
Not to say Newton looked terrible in the preseason. I thought he did nothing in terms of his preseason play to lose the job. When he was out there, he looked solid. Mac Jones just flat out looks better. The reality is one guy is 22 with a bright future ahead, the other is 32 with his best years behind him. If the talent gap isn’t that far apart, it makes sense to choose the young bull.
I still think, even at the time of writing this, that Newton should have been the starter. I think he still had something to offer, and could have gotten New England to the playoffs. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
His release makes more sense in the context that he isn’t going to be the starter. Newton as a backup, especially behind a young QB like Mac Jones, just wouldn’t work. It would put a lot of unneeded pressure on a guy who will already have a ton of pressure on his shoulders to begin with.
What’s Next For Cam?
At this point, I don’t know what lies in store for Cam Newton. I just don’t see a starting job out there for him. The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Football Team are apparently interested. Washington seems like a good landing spot due to uncertainty at the quarterback position and the presence of his former coach Ron Rivera.
I believe Cam Newton deserves some praise from Patriots fans. The man took on the gargantuan task of being the guy to replace Tom Brady. Things didn’t work out the way he or any of us would have hoped. I maintain however that if we didn’t have Newton, New England wins maybe three or four games in 2020.
That roster was really bad, and Newton did his best with what he had. He’s a play away against Buffalo and Seattle from finishing the season in the playoff conversation. With THAT team. The Cam Newton Era is officially over. It was a weird time for sure…
The Rise of Mac Jones
…but the night is always darkest before the dawn. As terrible as 2020 was to endure as a Patriots fan, there is hope heading into 2021. A big reason for that hope is the emergence of one Michael McCorkle Jones.
How Did We Get Here?
The Mac Jones ride has been a crazy one so far. During the pre-draft process, he was being talked about going as high as 3rd overall in the draft. Fast forward to draft night, and he falls all the way down to 15, where the Patriots snag him.
Jones was the fifth QB taken off the board, and I can truly say he has looked better than the four who were drafted before him. It’s only preseason, but Mac Jones already looks the part. Sure, Trey Lance and Justin Fields may have him beat in SportsCenter “Top 10” appearances. Jones, however, makes the throws you expect a veteran QB to make. His decision making is uncanny. His poise in the pocket is incredible for a 22-year old rookie. He completed nearly 70% of his passes in the preseason and didn’t have a single turnover.
All of these things played a huge role in Mac winning the job. He didn’t just go out there and play okay, or just solid. He had the best preseason performance by a rookie in the last decade. Cam Newton didn’t really do anything on the field to lose the job. His level of play was good. Mac Jones was better than good, he was spectacular.
He has quickly gained the respect and admiration of his teammates with his work ethic and how he carries himself. Heck, even Belichick is giving the man high fives after practice. If Bill gives you a high five, you know you’re doing something right.
What to Expect From Mac?
The Patriots locker room believes they can win with Jones. The coaching staff believes they can win with Jones. That right there is enough reason for why the job is his.
I hate putting Jones in the shadow of Brady and comparing the two, but there’s just so many similarities between them it’s hard not to point out. There were times during the Patriots preseason that I was getting a nostalgic feeling. The offense was running like it used to. Same style and everything. Jones fits the system beautifully, and allows the Patriots to go back to what they did best for so many years. McDaniels has to feel more comfortable with Jones than he did Newton.
Getting him in sooner only benefits his development. The great part is he won’t have to carry the load like Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson will. Mac Jones has the benefit of being on a good team with amazing coaches. It’s for that reason I belive Mac Jones will win the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Seriously, he already has the 2nd best odds behind Trevor Lawrence.
The Mac Jones era is officially ready to begin. His first test will be a tough one, a showdown with his former Bama teammate Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins. As much as I wanted to see Newton start, I would be lying if I said wasn’t excited about seeing Mac play. This season is going to be a fun one for sure.
Photo: (Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)