McGinley: Are the Patriots really sold on Cam?
Mannion McGinley | Friday, March 19, 2021
As I mentioned on Wednesday, The Patriots resigned Cam Newton which is nothing if not disappointing. That is, until you consider the potential of the people around him. I left that Sports Authority a bit more hopeful with how this season might go.
That being said, a better quarterback and all of those built-up additions to the roster are not mutually exclusive. At least, if Belichick plays his cards right, they don’t have to be. The Patriots could stick with Newton and do okay … especially with everything going on around — read: in spite — of him, and everyone new. But there are still other potential options out there.
Take it back to 2017
Jimmy. Garoppolo. The former Patriot turned 49er may not be the perfect quarterback, but his problems mostly lie in staying on the field rather than what he can accomplish while he’s there. In the six games he played in the 2020 season around another ankle injury, Garoppolo had a 67.1 completion percentage for 1096 yards. The games themselves ended 3-3 but considering he was injured during one of them, that might as well be 3-2.
What is most important about Garoppolo’s stats is how they measure up to Newton’s. Garoppolo lands exactly seven points above Newton in completion percentage and had only one less touchdown in 6 games than Newton had all season. It also came with only half the interceptions.
You might say, what about Newton’s running capability? The Patriots have a deep, successful backfield. There is no reason to have a quarterback who can run that well when — if we’re being honest — he can’t really even run that well anymore. Yes, he gets a lot of yardage on plays where he just decides to run but it’s not anything the Patriots can work into their playbook. Every time they tried to actively use his ability this year, he fumbled or got stopped. Instead, put someone like Garoppolo back at the helm. He may not be as quick but he’s a little more sure-footed than we’ve seen from Newton yet.
Is someone like Garoppolo a perfect solution? No, it could go really poorly if he got injured again. The alternative though is no better. If necessary, Newton coming in off the bench raring to go is so much more effective than using him all year.
Also, doesn’t once a Patriot, always a Patriot, have a nice ring to it? (100% looking at you Tom.)
The rest of the free-agent pool
If I’m being honest, they all have space to be more successful than Cam Newton. Marcus Mariota would be the best fit of who’s left for the Patriots. They all shouldn’t be too hard to reel in and they have had similar tracks to Garoppolo.
Mariota hasn’t been able to show off all his skill yet — I don’t think. He has cycled through so many coaches and coordinators that having Belichick-level stability would be a killer opportunity for him. The offense is on the right track to accommodate someone like Mariota too. He would need a few more weapons to come in to really elevate the offense but he should also be a fairly cheap grab considering his history of moving around.
One person who could have been a great option is Mitchell Trubisky. It would have a classic Belichick-fix like the ones I have been watching my entire life. As my dad would explain to me, people show up in Belichick’s camp and come out doing more than anyone thought possible. If he could’ve made this work for Trubisky, that would’ve changed everything. And, Newton would’ve come in as the backup. If Belichick can’t get Trubisky where he needs to be, they revert to Newton. But, all hope went out for that one mid-afternoon as Trubisky will take the field as a backup for the Bills.
Still, most of who is left can do as much good if not better than Newton and with him there as a backup, that’s a pretty decent safety net.
Or, build for the future.
With a backup/potential starter like Newton, there’s absolutely no reason not to take your first couple eggs out of the basket and head full speed for the best quarterback you can grab.
Take him, get him ready and give him time to train by playing your backup (Newton). I really don’t believe the world will end if he plays a few games.
Who is that stellar young quarterback you ask? Well, if Belichick chooses this path a couple of things need to happen. The weapons can’t stop coming in altogether. But the Patriots do have to weigh how high they can move up in the draft with how high they need to be to still leave the kid a team to work with when he shows up.
Having said that, Trey Lance from North Dakota State is my best bet. At 6’4” 226 lbs, he is accurate from the pocket and on the run. He can bring the new style of quarterback to the Patriots. Playing in a similar style to Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson, and doing so successfully, would make him a killer addition to the Patriots offense. It would ultimately leave so many offensive options that didn’t make your heart jump every time he tried them. Although it was at the collegiate level, he has proven he can do it.
He probably won’t be one of the very first picks either (much like someone else) because he didn’t go to an Alabama or a Clemson. But if Belichick can see him, see what he can be, and step up to welcome him, Lance could be mind-blowing and create a new dynasty for the Patriots only after a one-year pause.
All in all, I’m not saying Pats Nation has to give up on Cam Newton (although we pretty much have). The team that is shaping up around him could be worthwhile. If we wanted better assurance of a worthwhile year something like this needs to happen.