We hear a lot about Cam Newton’s arm strength and how that impacted his 2020 season, but some suggest a few other things outside of his control that impeded his production.
On paper, it would appear the New England Patriots are set to be a much more talented team in 2021 than they were in 2020. Newton stands to benefit from the influx of talent as much as anyone on the roster.
In 2020, he didn’t benefit from two elite tight ends like Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. He didn’t have an offensive line that featured a potentially dominant Trent Brown at tackle, and Mike Onwenu likely even better as a second-year player than he was as a rookie. Newton also didn’t have two veteran receivers like Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, not to mention a potential speed threat added in the draft.
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Is Josh McDaniels to Blame for Cam Newton’s Struggles?
According to one anonymous teammate, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels exacerbated these issues by not changing the team’s offense enough from a Tom-Brady program to one catered to what Newton does best.
NFL.com’s Mike Giardi wrote:
What was also mentioned by some was the belief that it was difficult to meld Josh McDaniels’ offense with Newton’s unique skill set. One player said viewing the game tape too often felt like watching the Brady offense with a few QB runs mixed in — and that, rather quickly, became too easy to decipher. (It should be noted that Cam’s 2020 completion percentage was better than Brady’s in either of the past two seasons.) Another player described it as a lack of connection between the offense and quarterback, juxtaposing New England’s handling of Newton against Buffalo’s approach with Josh Allen. The player lauded Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s strategic evolution over the past few years, from initially implementing week-to-week game plans to eventually just letting Allen do what he does best. ‘Here it is,’ the player said. ‘Stop it.’
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I made this point throughout the season, but there are several factors that might explain McDaniels’ approach.
Why Did McDaniels Approach the Offense This Way?
Time is perhaps the biggest factor.
Newton signed in June 2020, which cut down on his time to learn the new offense or to work with McDaniels on implementing something that better fits his style. Secondly, he caught COVID-19 after Week 2, and that put him further behind the curve.
Those are two huge impediments for both Newton and McDaniels to overcome. There’s also the potential impact of McDaniels’ stubbornness. This element of his personality is believed to have been the culprit behind his failure as a head coach with the Denver Broncos.
The 6-0 start to the 2009 season was a honeymoon that was over as quickly as it started. After inexplicably deciding to trade the Pro Bowl quarterback Denver had drafted just three years earlier (Jay Cutler), McDaniels really came in and just blew everything up personnel-wise from what it had previously been. I think one of the major reasons why it was such a quick divorce between McDaniels and the Broncos is because he tried to overcompensate for his youth by flexing his power within the organization. McDaniels had full control over the roster, and while he didn’t have the same credibility and respectability as a guy like Bill Belichick, he tried to command that respect like a dog marking its territory all over the organization.
Should McDaniels had abandoned the old offense to embrace what Newton did well? Was there enough time? We may never know for sure, but heading into 2021, with far fewer excuses for both men, we’ll get a better evaluation of what Newton and McDaniels bring to the table.
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