You know the old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
The New England Patriots are reaching that level as they keep putting Cam Newton on the field as their starting quarterback. It’s not working, nothing is changing, and it’s helping nobody. Newton has thrown for less than 100 yards in three of his last five games. He’s been benched prematurely in two of his last three games. He went 5-of-10 for 34 yards as a passer while carrying the ball four times for 24 yards with a touchdown in the Patriots’ 38-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Bill Belichick still isn’t throwing Newton under the bus. And he shouldn’t. The entire Patriots team is broken and deserves to be run over.
“Cam did a good job for us,” Belichick said. “I mean, that wasn’t the problem.”
On Newton’s five incompletions, three were dropped, one was tipped and one was grounded to wide receiver N’Keal Harry. Newton wasn’t the only problem. Even he conceded that he was part of it, however.
“I’ll put it like this: You don’t get pulled out just because you’re having a standup game,” Newton said. “I can tell you that. I’d be the first person to say that. There are some things I feel like I could have done better. But what my standard is for myself, it’s never to just blend in and just be the status quo. There’s some plays that need to have been made on my part that I feel like I could have done a better job at doing. You just have to review the film and get back to it. As a signal caller, as a person who is a dynamic player on this team, I need to impact the game more, and it just didn’t happen tonight.”
That’s fair. So, what happens moving forward? Do the Patriots keep banging their head against the wall Week 17 against the New York Jets? Does it change anything if Newton suddenly tears it up against a 2-13 team?
Belichick wouldn’t commit to starting Newton or Jarrett Stidham (or Brian Hoyer, Jake Dolegala, Jakobi Meyers, Julian Edelman or Nike the Dog).
“Game was over about 10, 15 minutes ago, so,” Belichick said. “We worked on this game. We played the game. Haven’t made any plans for next week obviously being it’s 15 minutes old.”
Stidham went just 4-of-11 for 44 yards as the Patriots’ passing woes continued. If the Patriots are going to start Stidham in Week 17, then they have to commit to him and let him take first-team reps throughout the week. He’s been running the scout team all season while also working in individual drills and some 7-on-7s. Starters practice in New England. Stidham isn’t a starter.
Still, Stidham likely would have shown a flash at some point in five relief appearances this season that he has the potential to be the Patriots’ future starter. He hasn’t.
Still, he (obviously) wants to start on Sunday.
“Everybody in the game of football wants to be playing every single week,” Stidham said. “I would absolutely love that opportunity but that’s not in my control, and I’m not going to focus on it. It’s not going to change the way I prepare. I prepare like I’m the starter even going back to last year.”
Stidham said all of the right things and wouldn’t blame his struggles on playing in garbage time nor the lack of meaningful practice reps.
Newton wouldn’t comment on whether he wants to start in Week 17 after Stidham’s comments to relayed to him.
“I’m not about to get into no back and forth with nobody,” Newton said. “My job is to be the best teammate and player I can possibly be for this year, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
So, what should the Patriots do? Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Newton’s performance against the Jets won’t change anyone’s perception of him positive or negative. Stidham might look better after a full week of practice, but at this point it’s only on a one-game meaningless sample size. The Patriots aren’t going to decide whether they should add a proven veteran starter or draft a rookie based on one game against the Jets.
Starting someone other than Newton seems like the best option, however. Nothing is changing. Nothing is going to change. Newton could very well still be a good quarterback elsewhere, but it’s not working in New England with these coaches and these receivers. It’s best to put someone else out there in Week 17 and hope the game goes by as quickly as humanly possible.