Cam Newton Opens Up About What Went Wrong in 2020, Bill Belichick, and His Possible Return to NE
It's not often I post a 1:37:00 video and say "You should watch this." Because frankly, I don't want to devoting that kind of time to anything other than consuming all of Barstool's content, buying merchandise and purchasing all our sponsors goods and services. My babies got to eat.
But if you're even remotely interested in sports and what life is like for pro athletes, I suggest you catch as much of this as you can. It's a fascinating conversation for anyone, but particularly so for anyone with an interest in the inner workings of the Patriots. Cam Newton talking to former Pats Fred Taylor and Chad Johnson, and Brandon Marshall, who was a major part of Josh McDaniels' failed attempt at coaching the Broncos. (As well as a major contributor to the failure, as he had no use for the rookie HC's approach at all.) The conversation is candid, honest and, as the kids say, real. Four guys from different backgrounds and personalities, but all extroverts who've played the game at a high level for a long time, just shooting the shit.
That said, not many people have the time for this, but it's kind of my job. So I'll hit some of the highlights. I hate transcribing like I hate soiling myself, so I'll credit Boston.com for a lot of these quotes. The biggest takeaways:
Newton blames getting hit by Covid for a lot of the failures.
Marshall describes how he caught the Vid in December, and it took him a month to feel normal again, and points out that Newton missed all of one game. But Newton explains how, while he was quarantining, the Patriots offense continued to add plays, formations and calls he hadn't worked on. And uses the analogy of the team being a bunch of cars cruising down a highway together and he pulled off for gas while everyone else kept driving.
“By the time I came back, I didn’t feel comfortable…skillfully,” Newton said. “And a lot of that discomfort came pre-snap....
“Throughout those times, there was times where it was just like, ‘Hold on, set 180. Wait am I supposed to, set 1-8-what? Hold on.’ I was thinking too much. Going back to that analogy, the offense kept going and I was stopped and stagnant for a week, two weeks. By the time I came back, it was new terminology. I was like, ‘Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Let’s go back to No. 1.’"
Newton admits what we all knew going in. That being Tom Brady's replacement is an impossible task.
He mentions a few times that the Patriots run a "20 year system" that he had two months to learn. And that a lot of what he did in Carolina was based on improv and he was always confident that he'd be able to make a play in the moment. As opposed to the system Brady had perfected over two decades. So he recognizes he was replacing the irreplaceable man, but he had no other options.
“You took the hardest job in the f—— country, following Tom Brady,” Taylor said.
“I did, but hear me out though,” Newton replied.” What other options did I have? Since we’re being a bean, what other options did I have?
The guys who've played for Bill Belichick love him.
Newton, Taylor and Johnson all agree playing for Belichick is hard as hell, but worth it. Taylor laughed about being put on special teams in practice in his 12th NFL season. Johnson describes his first day on the job, watching Belichick and Brady bitch each other out in practice. They laugh about the coach's favorite word.
“Were you ever considered a moron? That’s Bill’s favorite word,” Taylor said. “His favorite saying is ‘You’re a fucking moron.’ Everybody’s a fucking moron (to Belichick). I ain’t no fucking moron. It’s his favorite word, but I was never [a moron].”
But they all respect the hell out of him, Newton especially.
“I think Bill Belichick is the most misunderstood person in all of sports,” Newton said. “He dope as s—. He dope as s—. Like, he is a cool dude. He understands the game. He’s a historian of the game. Just for you to sit and chat with him. It’s like, ‘Damn.’ He’s going back and he’s got film teaching the game.”
“Bill’s not cold,” Newton said. “Nobody’s on that team where you have an aura where you don’t wanna be around him. Everything is geared to win. And if you’re not built for that, that’s not the place for you. That’s not the place you want to lose, either. I learned that the hard way.”
Newton won't sit there and listen to you badmouth his coordinator.
Marshall is surprisingly magnanimous toward McDaniels, given their history together. And says they like each other now. To which Newton adds, "He speaks so highly of you, bro." But Marshall still tells the story of McDaniels showing up in Denver with the sleeves of his grey hoodie cut off and how everyone called him "Baby Bill." And another about how he was getting rotated in an out of the Broncos formation, even in the 2-minute offense, until he caught a Go route to win a game against Dallas and told Baby Bill he refused to be part of a rotation any more. But when Marshall ripped McDaniels' decision to have Newton try to run in it from the Seattle 1 with the game on the line, Newton would have none of it.
“I can’t let you do that,” Newton said. “Mickey D’s (McDaniels), that’s my dog.”
“Here’s the thing about football. Here’s the thing about sports, about analysis and critics,” Newton later added. “Looking back at it, of course. If it had worked, then you’re asking Pete Carroll how could you not stop this play. We ran it numerous times. If you’re playing the Lakers, you know who’s about to get the ball. If you playing Golden State. Chicago, back when. So for me, I’m like if the ball with anybody else, it was a sin. That’s just my theory. That’s just my thinking.”
The same goes for his receivers.
Johnson repeatedly brings up the fact he'd like to have seen Newton have some "dogs" to throw to in New England, and that maybe the lack of weapons did him in. Again, Newton isn't buying it.
It’s not to say that they weren’t or that they can’t be (good),” Newton said.
“There’s levels though,” Johnson replied.
“Since we’re being honest, yes,” Newton said. “I do think, Doughboy I call him, N’Keal Harry, he was battered [as Newton pointed to his head]. You know what I’m saying?”
He goes on to defend Harry by saying he's young and that he'll figure it out. But I doubt it'll be going over well at Patriot Place or Park Avenue that the quarterback of a receiver who played 14 games is suggesting that he was playing through a concussion. Not when the league has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at keeping the tort lawyers from attacking them like ninjas. The Patriots part of that equation is especially significant since:
Newton wants to be back with New England.
Despite a season where he threw just eight touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, Newton doesn't believe his done. Not by a damned sight. Saying he's not even considering retirement. "I can't go out like that," he says. "I hear all of that talk. My pride won't allow me to do it. There aren't 32 guys better than me."
When asked about whether he's had talks with the Patriots about coming back, he says he can't answer that. But when asked if he'd be willing to come back on another one-year deal, he leaves no doubt. “Yes. Hell yes,” Newton said. “I’m getting tired of changing. I’m at the point in my career where I know way more than I knew last year.”
There's more there. About Newton's schedule of getting to the stadium at 5:15 every morning. What they all believe "The Patriots Way" is to them. A lot of Aaron Hernandez talk, because they all knew him from his college days. But the big takeaway is that Cam Newton believes that a lot of things went wrong for him in 2020 that can be fixed in 2021. With a full year in the system. Without catching a deadly virus. And with a full opportunity to work with the coaches and teammates he had last season, that he can come all the way back.
It's going to be fascinating to see if the guy in charge feels the same way. Whether 2020 was proof enough that Cam Newton and the Patriots was a noble experiment that just didn't work out, or whether it was just a giant mulligan that deserves another shot. We'll know soon enough. But if nothing else, one thing we know for sure is that there has rarely been a more interesting pro athlete in New England than this guy. What a week he's having.