Bill Belichick benched Cam Newton and turned to Jarrett Stidham in the fourth quarter Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Should the New England Patriots consider a permanent change at quarterback?
Newton was awful in New England’s 33-6 loss to San Francisco, which marked a continuation of his poor showing in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos. Belichick said he’s sticking with the three-time Pro Bowl selection, but the Patriots’ offense has looked horrendous recently and Newton’s play is a major reason why.
Still, NFL analyst Dan Graziano is with Belichick, suggesting in a piece published Monday on ESPN.com that it’d be an “overreaction” to bench Newton in favor of Stidham moving forward.
Here’s what Graziano wrote:
As long as he’s healthy — and he insists he is — Newton still gives the Patriots the better chance to win. They have a run-based offense, and the running threat Newton presents enhances the run game when it’s working. New England isn’t out of it yet, and a win next week in Buffalo would change the narrative.
What it does at quarterback next year remains a mystery. Newton is on a one-year deal and Stidham hasn’t shown much, so all options are on the table. But a team that has won its division 11 years in a row and 17 of the past 19 isn’t in a position to give up on its season and think about the future while it’s still mathematically alive in the playoff race.
One could argue this week’s matchup with the first-place Buffalo Bills is a must-win game for the Patriots, who’ve lost three straight. It also would be telling if Newton and Co. struggle to move the football, as Buffalo’s defense has been shaky for most of this season.
It once seemed like Newton might be destined for a long-term future in Foxboro, as the 31-year-old performed well early on while maintaining a positive attitude. But he hasn’t been the same between the lines since his bout with COVID-19.
Now, it’s fair to question not just whether Newton will be gone after this season but if New England should hand the offensive keys to Stidham sooner than later with an eye toward 2021 and beyond.