Who will be the New England Patriots‘ starting quarterback in 2021?
The guesses from the local and national media range from almost everyone available: the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz, Las Vegas Raiders free agent Marcus Mariota, Alabama rookie Mac Jones, a reunion with the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and others has seemingly been discussed at length.
Perhaps the most forgotten option for the Patriots at quarterback is the team’s starter in 2020, and that’s Cam Newton.
The 2015 NFL MVP will officially be a free agent in March, and many don’t believe the Patriots will bring him back in 2021. Don’t count 11-year NFL veteran, 3-time Pro-Bowler, and current ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson in that number.
Johnson was asked for a bold prediction for the offseason, and he said, “I’m going to go with Cam Newton back to New England.”
Johnson is aware that’s not a popular take, but he offered an explanation. Johnson said:
I know a lot of people think that experiment went south, but it doesn’t seem like it quite to me. It seems like they would to try and find some other playmakers to build around him possibly. Because going out in the draft and getting a young quarterback, that means that you are rebooting your entire team to make a run over the next five, six, or seven years. Does Belichick really have that long to sit around and wait? If they can get Cam right, there’s no pandemic, there’s a real offseason, a real training camp and not a truncated training camp, I think that’s my bold prediction.
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Newton Has Been Mostly Quiet Since the Season Ended
During the 2020 season, Newton proved to be about as forthcoming and cooperative as any player in recent NFL history. He was open, honest, and refreshingly accountable about everything that took place between the white lines.
One of the worst things about the way the Patriots’ season ended was obviously the team missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012, but also the sudden ending of Newton’s entertaining and mostly pleasant conversations with the media. Since the season ended, Newton appears to be busy doing what he said he would do once the 2020 campaign was over.
He’s been posting a ton of pictures with his children on social media, but he’s also preparing to improve in 2021.
Newton pledged to lose 20 pounds ahead of the upcoming year, but we still don’t know who he’ll be playing for in what will be his 11th season in the NFL.
Pros to Bringing Newton Back
Newton didn’t have a fantastic year in 2020, that’s no secret, but it wasn’t as bad as most people suggest.
Yes, 8 TD passes to 10 INTs isn’t a desirable ratio, but most quarterbacks will take 12 rushing TDs, and his 65.8% completion rate was higher than Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Ryan, Joe Burrow, Andy Dalton, Lamar Jackson, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, and Carson Wentz.
Am I suggesting Newton had a better year than all of those guys–especially Brady? No, there are several metrics used to judge a quarterback’s effectiveness, and all of them have different levels of validity. However, I am saying things aren’t as hopeless as the narrative surrounding Newton suggests.
In a year with almost no training camp, stress from the pandemic, a new playbook, a bout with COVID-19, almost no weapons on the offensive end, and a massively restricted playbook, Newton didn’t get the benefit of the doubt that many quarterbacks in the league have received in similar or even less challenging situations.
As Johnson said, with a complete training camp, better weapons, a second year in the Patriots system, and hopefully none of the COVID issues that plagued him and others in 2020, Newton should be better.
If Newton is back, it would be a shock if he isn’t noticeably better than he was last year.
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