- The New England Patriots have reportedly cut quarterback Cam Newton.
- The departure of Newton means that the Patriots will go with rookie Mac Jones as starting quarterback.
- Veteran Brian Hoyer will be Jones’ backup. Jarrett Stidham is on the ‘physically unable to perform’ list but can come off later this season.
When the New England Patriots selected quarterback Mac Jones out of Alabama in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft it was apparent that Bill Belichick considered him to be the future of the franchise. What wasn’t apparent was that he would be thrust into the role so quickly. In a downright shocking move, the Patriots have released incumbent starter Cam Newton after insisting that he was their starting quarterback throughout the preseason.
While the move was unexpected–at least at this time–it’s definitely the right one for the long term well being of the Patriots’ franchise. The ‘writing was on the wall’ when New England took Jones so early in the draft. The last quarterback that the franchise drafted in the first round was Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Jones is expected to start New England’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins which leads to another of the inevitable comparisons with Bledsoe–he was under center the last time the Pats started a rookie at quarterback in Week 1 of the NFL regular season.
So far there’s been no public comment from the Patriots though Newton’s departure will clearly be a primary topic the next time Belichick faces the media. Newton has posted a message on his Instagram account addressing the move:
“I really appreciate all the love and support during this time but I must say … please don’t feel sorry for me. I’m good.”
Newton’s release is a vivid testament to the difficult life of a NFL player. Newton can be a bit of a ‘flake’ at times but he’s by all accounts a solid guy and a good teammate. He’s always been a class act off the field as well–there are still billboards in the Charlotte, NC area promoting several of his charitable endeavors. In other words, he didn’t make any bad choices to run his career into the ground. Five years can be a lifetime in the NFL but for Newton to go from being named the offensive MVP after the 2015 season and playing in the Superbowl in early 2016 to his current status where his football future is unclear has to be viewed as a precipitous fall from grace.
Injuries played a large part in Newton’s decline. His 2016 performance dropped considerably from the previous year. Newton completed 52.9 percent of his passes–a career low. He also threw 19 touchdown passes, 16 less than the previous season. While this is not uncommon for players coming off of a MVP season a bigger concern was Newton’s physical condition. His arm strength and accuracy were nowhere near what they had been and he was clearly trying to ‘dink and dunk’ to avoid passing downfield.
Newton had surgery in the offseason to repair a partially torn rotator cuff and he experienced some improvement during the 2017 season. He was caught up in a phony controversy when he made an innocent though ill advised comment to Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue saying ‘It’s funny to hear a female talk about (passingg) routes.” The online hate mobs reacted as if he’d pulled a knife on Rodrigue and the usual ‘social justice’ suspects demanded his hit for a not particularly enlightened but innocuous comment. Newton apologized and the ersatz ‘controversy’ blew over with minimal damage though Dannon Yogurt capitulated to the mobs and dropped Newton as a spokesman. It would later turn out that Rodrigue had posted racist comments online complete with dropping the ‘N-bomb’. She had also trolled Newton from a fake Twitter account. Sadly, these revelations received far less coverage than the original ‘controversy’ over Newton’s comments.
Injuries continued to plague Newton, hampering his performance in 2018 and limiting him to just two starts in 2019. The Panthers gave Newton permission to seek a trade but after finding no takers released him on March 24, 2019. After three months on the free agent market he signed on with the New England Patriots and served as the starting quarterback for the 2020 season. His performance was capable but far from spectacular. He was benched in favor of Jarrett Stidham at one point and wound up on the league’s COVID list on another occasion.
For the most part, Coach Belichick spoke highly of Newton’s preseason performance:
“I feel like everybody’s way ahead of where they were last year. Certainly, he started at a much higher point than what he did last year, so definitely moving in the right direction.”
There’s a lot more to come on this story both as it concerns Newton’s future, the Patriots’ potential in the upcoming season and how Jones will perform.