Ninkovich, a former Patriots linebacker, recently reported on “The Dan and Ninko Show” podcast, citing sources, that Jones basically was helping Newton learn New England’s playbook before the latter was released last week.
Bayless on Tuesday took issue with Ninkovich’s report, explaining on FS1’s “Undisputed” that he finds it hard to believe after Newton spent all of last season as the Patriots’ starting QB.
“These remarks from Ninkovich — I have respect for him, because he was there, he did this at the highest level … But these remarks left a bad taste in my mouth, because all of a sudden, it is open season on Cam Newton,” Bayless said. “And it’s because Bill Belichick cut him, so all bets are off, let it fly, come one, come all, line up to pile on with every little bit.
“I have no way of knowing whether this is true or not, but it seems a little overstated, a little exaggerated that Mac Jones was teaching Cam the playbook after Cam was there all of last year. I’m sorry, I don’t think Cam’s an idiot.”
Maybe Newton didn’t have the best knowledge of the playbook. And maybe Jones is a quick learner who showed tremendous aptitude during his early days with the organization. Still, it’s hard to imagine Jones, a 23-year-old rookie, teaching Newton, a 32-year-old veteran. It’s possible Ninkovich, or whomever shared such information, was being hyperbolic for effect.
That said, Bayless also took things a step further Tuesday while questioning Ninkovich’s report, pointing out that it reeks of the old, baseless stereotype that Black quarterbacks struggle to grasp the mental aspect of football.
“What rankles me, what gives me pause, what, frankly, in the end horrifies me is, are we creeping back into Black quarterback syndrome — where, ‘oh, the Black quarterback doesn’t have the mental capability that the white quarterback has,’ even the young 23-year-old straight out of Alabama,” Bayless said. ” ‘He can’t process as quickly as Mac; Mac just absorbed it and then in meetings he’s having to teach it to Cam, who’s only been there for a whole year.’ It’s just hard for me to swallow that. I don’t like the echoes of that. Because I’ve lived through it, you’ve lived through it, we’ve come a long way in this regard. And all of a sudden, it feels like we’re taking a step backward.”
It’s unclear what the future holds for Newton, who’s coming off a lackluster 2020 season with New England after dealing with injuries during his final years with the Carolina Panthers. Maybe he doesn’t have much left in the tank. After all, he’s a physical QB who has endured plenty of punishment.
His overall track record speaks for itself, however, and he deserves tremendous credit for what he’s been able to accomplish over the past decade. Perhaps he’ll ultimately find more success elsewhere.
“Cam Newton is a football player at the highest level. He won an MVP, he lifted a team all the way to the Super Bowl, and you can’t do that if you can’t process,” Bayless said. “You just can’t. I’m sorry, the game is too fast, it’s too hard. You have to have complete control of the playbook and the play calls, and I believe he does at the highest level. So, I just don’t like the implication here. It smells to me.”
The Patriots will host the Miami Dolphins this Sunday at Gillette Stadium to kick off their 2021 season.