Cam Newton’s Patriots career is finished after the team’s surprise release of the one-time NFL MVP quarterback on Tuesday. He likely will not start for another team in his career, and it’s also questionable whether he will resurface as a backup.
Newton went from competing for the job with rookie first-round pick Mac Jones to Bill Belichick and New England not wanting him even as a No. 2 to support Jones. Beyond the initial shock of the unorthodox big-name final cut, there were several good reasons for the Patriots to take Newton off the regular-season roster.
1. Cam Newton missed a key part of training camp
Right in the middle of preseason games and an intense joint camp practice with the Eagles, Newton was unavailable tied to COVID-19 testing snafu. That wasn’t Newton’s fault, but unfortunately for him, opportunity knocked louder for Jones and the rookie took full advantage in showing more impressive first-team play.
The Patriots also know Newton missed action tied to the pandemic last season and isn’t fully vaccinated, which raises more availability issues going into this season. New England’s mantra under Belichick is “Do Your Job” and Newton not being able to show up for work at key times is frustrating.
Belichick did heap praise on what Newton was able to accomplish in Josh McDaniels’ complicated offense. But in the end, Newton still didn’t show he could do the job better than Jones.
2. Newton doesn’t have willing backup makeup
Newton wears No. 1. He’s a Heisman Trophy winner, national champion, No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011, MVP and NFC champion. Newton isn’t made to be a clipboard holder and help mentor young quarterbacks. His best value is bringing an unique dual threat with his size and athleticism, but only in the starting lineup and only when healthy and willing.
There also have been leadership battles with his teams in the past. He wouldn’t have performed well as a teammate when the Patriots are looking to turn the corner to their true new post-Tom Brady leader in Jones. Newton has tended to go on a downward spiral when things don’t go well for him as a starter and by nature, there would have be a negative environment for him when demoted to veteran No. 2.
3. Patriots are comfortable with their traditional running game
There was some talk even if Jones started there would be some special rushing-based packages for Newton. But the Patriots have great confidence in Damien Harris, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, journeyman J.J. Taylor — along with receiving specialist James White — that they can be effective running the ball and finishing drives with Jones providing the balance of a ball-control passing game. The trade of Sony Michel to the Rams confirmed they love that mix in the backfield, so it would follow they didn’t want to force Newton into the attack and mess up Jones’ rhythm as rookie in certain situations.
4. Patriots saw limited value in keeping Newton
The Patriots have no issues bringing in big names and dumping them when things don’t work out the way they like (see Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth, among others). Between the well-seasoned Brian Hoyer and young Jarret Stidham’s experience in the system, Jones has ample support in the QB room to help him get better.
What would Newton offer that the Patriots didn’t already have in the running game or with their offensive leadership? The answer was not much. Wasting a roster spot on him wasn’t worth it. Call Belichick cold and calculated, but in this situation, he also was correct.