Believe the hype about Mac Jones, but only to a certain extent. No matter what Bill Belichick says or does, there is a reluctance to accept the fact that the New England Patriots are almost surely going to start Cam Newton at QB.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer sent a few anti-Cam-Newton folks into a frenzy when he said the following in his latest edition of Monday Morning Quarterback:
“My sense right now is that Jones has done enough in the spring to merit a real competition with Newton”
Those who are thirsty for Newton to be replaced followed those statements with a bunch of replies that might as well have begun with: “so you’re saying there is a chance.”
On multiple occasions, Belichick has made it clear Newton is his starter, but for some reason, there remains a chase to find a winner of a race that doesn’t appear to exist.
Belichick Has Said Newton is the QB1
The day after the 2021 NFL Draft, Belichick shut down (or at least he tried to) a QB controversy. On April 29, the day after he selected Jones with the No. 15 pick, Belichick told the media:
So, Mac was available there at our pick and he’s a guy we spent a lot of time with and felt like that was the best pick at that time for us. And look forward to working with him. He’s a smart kid. He’s been in a system that’s similar to ours. We have had a lot of good conversations with him. I think he’ll be able to process the offense. It’s obviously going to take a lot of time. We’ll see how it goes. Cam [Newton]’s our quarterback. Whatever position, whatever time Jarrett [Stidham] or Mac [Jones] are ready to challenge and compete, then we’ll see how that goes.
Since then, Belichick hasn’t done or said anything through OTAs and minicamp that would suggest he’s changed his mind. On June 15, Belichick spoke to the media about Newton’s progress and where the former NFL MVP is in comparison to where he was this time last year.
Cam [Newton]’s way ahead of where he was last year at this time. There’s no question about that. I mean, as you would expect, he has a good year of experience under his belt and he’s able to start the process at the beginning and not be in a catch-up mode like he was last year. I mean, he was really just starting at this point last season, but he’s well ahead of that just from the year of experience and from the succession of building blocks that he’s been able to stack up, like all the players have that have been here since the start of the OTA and the offseason program back in April, that they’ve been able to stack those days and those learning experiences together, ask questions on things that they need clarification on and build to the next level when they’re ready to put another brick on the pile. So, that’s good for all of us. It’s good for Cam. It’s good for all of the players who can go through that process.
It’s tough to see how or where people are seeing Jones gaining any ground on Newton in the race to be the team’s starter in Week 1. I think many are missing the major point of Jones’ offseason work, and whose place on the roster Jones is actually challenging.
The Competition isn’t With Cam
We’re focusing so much on a potential QB battle between Jones and Newton, but Jarrett Stidham’s fate is more apt to be affected by a strong offseason performance from the rookie.
Newton would have to collapse completely or suffer an injury to be supplanted. Brian Hoyer was signed to be Jones’ mentor, so that’s a pretty safe spot to be in from a roster security standpoint.
Stidham’s position is more volatile. He’s been on the roster as a young quarterback the past two seasons. He’s 24 and should be taking more control of the team as a leader, but he was beaten out last year, and isn’t anywhere close to a leader for the team at this point.
That matters to Belichick as it is something he constantly mentions in relation to Newton. If Jones performs better than Stidham this offseason, things could get dangerous for Stidham. The Patriots probably aren’t keeping four quarterbacks, and Stidham is the most likely to be released.
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