Last week I posted about Cam Newton's conversation on Brandon Marshall's podcast, how he believes that Bill Belichick is not only the most misunderstood person in all of sports, he's "dope as shit," a "cool dude," a "historian of the game" and his favorite word is "moron."
Newton also said New England is not only a tough place to play, "That’s not the place you want to lose, either. I learned that the hard way.” But still said he'd re-sign with the Patriots, even on another one year, "Prove It" deal.
But if this report from Ben Volin is correct, the respect and admiration between Belichick and Newton is mutual, but the willingness to try it for another season might not be.
Bill Belichick’s praise for Cam Newton throughout the 2020 season wasn’t an act. Multiple sources who have spoken with Belichick this offseason said he does nothing but rave about Newton and the effort the quarterback put forth in 2020. The only problem Belichick is concerned with is Newton’s arm strength, with Newton having suffered multiple shoulder injuries in the last five years. In 2019, Newton acknowledged on his YouTube channel that his injuries sapped his ability to throw downfield.
But Belichick did seem to genuinely enjoy coaching Newton, and multiple sources said they would not be surprised to see Newton back with the Patriots, especially if he’s willing to take another cheap contract (though probably not minimum salary again). But everyone also expects the Patriots to draft a quarterback in the first few rounds.
The part about how the coach seemed "to genuinely enjoying coaching Newton" is the least surprising thing you'll read all offseason. Newton came to New England at the last minute (by NFL standards), hosted private workouts when team workouts weren't allowed, took on a leadership role, started off hot, fought through Covid and was totally accountable when things went sideways. All while getting paid as much as the long snapper. As I've said before and will say again probably, I liked everything about 2020 Cam Newton. With the exception of when he was throwing a football.
This business about his arm strength being a problem was not only confirmed by your lyin' eyes, but by the numbers. According to Pro Football Focus, on throws that went 20+ yards in the air:
- He had just 29 attempts, the fewest among QBs who started more than 12 games. Tua Tagovailoa had 29 ATT in just 10 starts.
- That's a rate of deep targets of just 7.9%, lower than anyone besides Jared Goff (7.8%).
- By way of comparison, Tom Brady had 91 deep attempts (14.9%) and Aaron Rodgers had 77 (14.2%).
- Though to be fair, Newton did pick his spots. He threw just one interception. His completion on deep shots was third in the league at 51.7%. And his passer rating was a 12th best 103.0.
And granted, some of that is probably a reflection of the skill position cards he was dealt. Still, he rarely chucked it deep because he couldn't. Probably due the fact he hasn't fully recovered from his past injuries. I'm sure at the end of commercials for shoulder surgery they have a disclaimer like "You may experience moderate to severe Weak Arm Syndrome. Some side effects may include a lack of shoulder strength, an inability to throw your receivers open, difficulty getting the ball over defenders, a long windup that creates pocket pressure, and over dependence on settling for checkdowns. Check with your orthopedic surgeon and your offensive coordinator to see if shoulder surgery is right for you before taking the operation."
What is surprising though, is Volin's last paragraph. It would shock me if Belichick went right back to Newton the solution to what was nothing short of a disastrous season for the passing offense. It pains me to say it, but with even a middle of the pack, VORP-type of quarterback, his team would've been in the playoff hunt, if not in the postseason. They went 7-9 behind a QB1 who went a stretch of four straight games, and another of three straight games, without a touchdown pass. And in those seven games they went 1-6. (Thanks, Jets!) He had four starts with fewer than 100 passing yards. And got yanked three times. You can't put a shine on that sneaker, no matter how respected and admired the guy is who posted those numbers. Or how injured.
Even a scenario where they bring him back to mentor a rookie draft pick for one season is hard to imagine. I mean, sure, maybe another year removed from surgery and with a normal offseason he might approach something close to 2015 MVP Newton. But that's a slender thread to hang your hopes from. And I can't imagine a scenario where Newton comes back as the QB2. Like he told Marshall, he doesn't believe there are 32 NFL quarterbacks better than he is. Maybe I'll end up eating these words but, if "Newton II: Superman Returns" ends up being the best option, then it's hard to see how it would represent anything other than a failure of the entire 2021 offseason. He's a great teammate. But this franchise needs a great teammate who can deliver accurate passes. It's not too big an ask.