It wasn’t the most memorable tenure, but Cam Newton did spend a season with the Patriots, going 7-8 as a starter in the 2020 NFL season, and might have been the man again in 2021 had Mac Jones—then a rookie first-round pick (No. 15 overall) from Alabama—not beaten him out for the job that summer. It was a surprise move because Newton was a proven commodity and Jones was still being questioned about his relative lack of arm strength.
Three years later, Newton is retired and Jones is back at the helm of the Patriots. But Jones is still taking criticism for his arm, and when Newton caught wind of one of the latest rounds of insults Jones has absorbed—from former Jets coach and Patriots whipping boy Rex Ryan—he came to the defense of his former training camp teammate.
Ryan, speaking on ESPN on Monday morning, called Jones “Peashooter Jones.” Newton called Ryan out.
“Rex Ryan, questionable call goes to you for sounding like a hater,” Newton said on his new YouTube show, “4th and 1.” Like, Mac Jones, giving somebody a backhanded compliment—what was it, the Peashooter looked good? Come on, bro.”
Arm Strength an Issue for Jones
Jones had a solid performance in the Patriots’ opener, a loss to the Eagles at Gillette Stadium. He threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception that bounced through the hands of receiver Kendrick Bourne. The Patriots fell behind, 16-0, early in the game because of bad luck and poor mistakes, but Jones rallied them to within one score of the defending NFC champs.
Jones’ longest completion of the day was 32 yards, but that was to running back Rhamondre Stevenson on a screen pass. So, if Ryan’s point in his criticism of Jones was that he did not throw downfield much, he’s right. Jones’ next-longest pass went 23 yards on an out pattern to Demario Douglas, and the Patriots led the league with 176 yards after the catch in the passing game in Week 1.
Ryan is not alone in that view of Jones, either. Just ahead of the 2023 season, The Ringer ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks on a number of facets, and had Jones dead last in arm strength. The site wrote of Jones: ““The bad news is that Jones has a long way to go before we can consider his arm even average for an NFL starter.”
‘Let’s Have Some Grace’
Newton does not want to hear all of that. He’s taken more of his share of criticism as a player before and he can imagine that Jones would like to lash back at Ryan, but can’t.
“It’s hard being in the NFL,” Newton said. “What we really wanna say is, ‘Bruh, shut your a** up.’ So I’m giving that questionable call to a hater movement from Rex Ryan.”
Moreover, Newton requested that Ran show more—ahem—grace in his analysis. That’s not a character trait many associate with Ryan.
“It’s early in the season,” Newton said. “Therefore, like, let’s have some grace. Granted you took a couple Ls from New England, but you also gave them a couple Ls. It’s a little bitterness from you and your days back with the Jets. But it’s just giving hater, Big Dog.”