Simply put, Cam Newton was never going to succeed with the Patriots.
While it would make some sense for the Patriots to bring back Cam Newton for 2021, it’s not likely that will happen at all.
Instead, Newton will leave New England after a season that flashed potential, but never came to fruition. For a lot of fans watching Newton struggle, it was easy to put the offense’s issues squarely on his injured shoulder. That’s really an oversimplification, though. Newton never had a chance to succeed in his one year in New England.
It starts with when Newton was signed. The Patriots didn’t bring him in until July 8. That’s difficult for a quarterback in a normal season, who’d be forced to learn an offense and build chemistry with the rest of the offense in just two months. Newton had to do it in 2020, a year with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Those restrictions included not being able to play any preseason games, limited personnel in the facilities, plater opt-outs, having to work virtually at times, and limited practice time with no contact being allowed outside of scheduled events. These challenges remained as the regular season progressed, and Newton even had to miss a game due to his own positive COVID-19 test.
While everyone had to deal with these issues, everything was worsened due to the Patriots roster situation. Newton himself was the team’s most dynamic running threat. Though Damien Harris emerged and Sony Michel started to show some flashes from his rookie year down the stretch, both played inconsistently, as did James White and Rex Burkhead (who suffered a season-ending injury).
To go along with that bland running game, the Patriots had an embarrassing passing attack. Now, Newton does deserve some of the blame for these struggles, but look at Brady’s struggles with the group of receivers in 2019 vs. his success with a strong group of skill players in Tampa Bay one year later. The Patriots’ wide receiver group was not NFL quality for the past few years, and it was malpractice not to select any top wideouts in the 2020 NFL Draft. Yes, Newton struggled to get the ball where it needed to go, but he also had no one to throw to.
The offense didn’t adapt well under Newton, either. There was a clear effort by Josh McDaniels to fit the offense to Newton’s skill set, but there was also a lack of creativity in doing so. This was personified with the last play of the game against Seattle in Week 2. Everyone knew what was coming, because, while McDaniels adjusted to allowing Newton to run, he continued to call bland and predictable plays. Instead of creating some misdirection on the play, Newton merely took the snap, tried to go left, and got blown up. Of course the Seahawks’ defense was going to play to stop that. He had ran that exact play numerous times throughout the game.
Throughout the season, Newton put in admirable effort, and there were glimmers of potential, particularly early on. He was a great teammate and locker room presence. As far as stopgap quarterbacks go, he was a success. No, Newton on the back end of his own career was never going to be as good as Brady, but he wasn’t bad. With a better situation he could have been good and we’d be talking about a 2021 reunion.
In fact, it may not be a bad idea to go against the odds and bring him back. Putting a good team around him and giving him a regular offseason timeline could change everything. With where the Patriots are set to draft, they aren’t likely to get someone ready to start under center when Week 1 arrives.
Instead, build a team around Newton and find a new rookie quarterback he can help develop and learn the system.