The New England Patriots have stuck with Cam Newton all season. They clearly believe the former NFL MVP is their best option at quarterback.
The argument for Stidham is a simple one: He’s the only Patriots QB currently under contract for the 2021 season. He’s never started an NFL game, meaning he’s never received a full week of first-team reps. Quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch recently said almost all of Stidham’s practice opportunities come on the scout team.
Even if the Patriots haven’t been impressed with the 2019 fourth-round draft pick thus far — which seems to be the case, since Newton has kept his QB1 tag — it’s hard to draw a complete picture of a player’s potential based only on sporadic practice reps and the occasional garbage-time appearance.
Stidham has seen fourth-quarter action in four games this season. His stats: 18-of-33, 212 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions.
While the playoffs still were a remote possibility, it made sense to roll with Newton. “Put your best team on the field,” and all of that. But now that the Patriots know their season will be ending in Week 17 for the first time since 2008, it would benefit them to learn all they can about Stidham as they plot their next move at the game’s most important position.
?I don?t know, man,” Newton said Sunday when asked if he expects to start against the Buffalo Bills next Monday night. “Listen, I?m just going to keep doing what I?m asked to do, and for me, I?ve just got to keep getting better. Keep doing what?s asked of me and go over and beyond and try to learn the system each and every week. I know we?re in the latter part of the season, but still try to learn as much as possible.”
Newton, we should note, has not been the only problem with the Patriots’ offense, which badly needs an influx of talent at wide receiver and tight end this offseason. But the numbers speak for themselves.
The Patriots have now gone two consecutive games — two must-win games — without scoring a touchdown. They’re 27th in points scored this season after not finishing lower than seventh since 2008. Newton has 11 rushing touchdowns but ranks 34th in passing touchdowns (five) and 30th in passer rating (79.6).
Newton wasn’t terrible against the Dolphins — his 209 passing yards were his most since Week 11, as were his 7.7 yards per attempt — but he had a couple of costly misses, including one that sailed over an open Jakobi Meyers in the end zone. He also had a fumble while scrambling that nearly resulted in a Miami touchdown.
?This whole season has kind of been the tale of just coming just a tad bit short,? Newton said. He later replied, “I don’t know,” when asked about the Patriots’ offensive stagnation.
“But I can critique my play, and I have to play better,” he said. “I have to be better, and that?s what I just plan (to) keep doing.?
Newton’s commitment and accountability this season — a season that included a positive COVID-19 test and an unceasing struggle to master Josh McDaniels’ complex playbook — have been admirable. But it’s clear he is not New England’s long-term answer at quarterback.
Stidham probably isn’t, either. But now’s the time for the Patriots to find out exactly what they have in their second-year signal-caller.