The Cam Newton era didn’t garner very much critical thinking in New England as the quarterback led the Patriots to a 7-9 record in 2020.
It seems as if Newton and the Patriots are bound for a split, which, in some ways, is unfortunate. Because we’ll never know how Newton would have played with a competitive group of receivers and enough time to fully grasp New England’s offensive system.
Then again, if Newton in fact was part of the problem that caused New England’s offense to sputter in 2020, then re-signing him for 2021 or beyond would only serve as a waste of time.
But Newton generated equal part adamant supporters and detractors during his time with the Patriots. He had an 82.9 passer rating with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions while also rushing for 12 touchdowns and losing a fumble. He completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards. Ultimately, he wound up with 20 touchdowns and 11 turnovers. The Patriots’ offense ran 142 plays in the red zone, and only 45 of them were dropbacks. It’s not necessarily Newton’s fault that he only threw eight touchdown passes. And he mostly made up for his lack of passing touchdowns with his rushing scores, so purely judging Newton off of raw numbers is a flawed process.
When it comes down to it, Newton’s supporters probably have a stronger case than his detractors when his weapons, or lack thereof, are taken into account. He was working with James White, Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, N’Keal Harry and Ryan Izzo for most of the season. Fullback Jakob Johnson, wide receiver Julian Edelman and running backs Damien Harris and Sony Michel also saw work.
Newton was far from perfect. But the Patriots’ offense had a low ceiling coming into the season. Newton didn’t necessarily raise that ceiling, however.
Ultimately, if Newton does depart the Patriots this offseason, he should be remembered as a fantastic teammate who said all of the right things and helped carry his team to seven wins in a strange season that could have gone much, much worse with Edelman, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and running back Rex Burkhead all missing valuable time with injuries and Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon opting out. The Patriots also lost Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, Danny Shelton and Duron Harmon to free agency or trade, leaving the roster mostly barren.
On paper and the field, the 2020 Patriots were much weaker than their 2019 counterparts. And the Patriots certainly saw a drop off in quarterback play from Tom Brady to Newton.
If Newton does depart the Patriots after just one season, it makes the work of his replacement much easier. “Rookie or veteran QB to be decided” isn’t replacing Brady anymore. They’re succeeding Newton. It’s not as if New Englanders will suddenly forget Brady, but if there’s a perceived improvement in quarterback play from Newton to his replacement, that QB will have a much easier job winning over the fanbase.
If things had gone better or easier for Newton in 2020, then he could have been the longterm quarterback of the future. It doesn’t appear to be headed that way, but the QB earned some fans since signing in July.