Anytime you mention quarterback Cam Newton, it’s bound to get an emotional response. Newton is easily one of the most polarizing players in the NFL. Quite possibly the most polarizing NFL history. His fans and advocates love him, and on the contrary, there are plenty of those that hate him. A good amount of those “haters” include Patriots fans. The 2015 MVP signed with the Patriots late in the free agency process last season and had a less than desirable campaign with the team in 2020. New England went 7-9 in 2020 and Newton threw for just eight touchdowns. It was the worst Patriots passing attack since 1990. Even if the team made strides in the run game and held an elite pass defense, it wasn’t enough to avoid a four-game losing streak after a COVID-19 outbreak.
Patriots fans were quick to throw Cam Newton under the bus for the team’s struggles. On the surface, it’s an easy case to make for a couple of different reasons. He had statistics comparable to those of the 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback tandem of Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. He arguably had a better wide receiver core than his predecessor Tom Brady (though they were basically the same) and still did worse. It was clear that there was some sort of issue throwing the ball downfield. This has jumpstarted a plethora of narratives by Patriots fans, some of whom have known nothing but greatness at the position. I’d argue most if not all, the narratives on Cam Newton are wrong. Let’s dissect them one by one, and if I haven’t convinced you by the end of this piece, let’s just say you’re stuck in your ways.
Myth 1: “All he does is throw to the other team.”
This is one of the most common, and most annoying, narratives about Cam Newton. It truly shows the ignorance of oldheads who think they pay attention to the numbers, but really don’t. Newton threw 10 interceptions last season with just 10 turnover-worthy plays in 2020 according to PFF’s premium statistics. Cam Newton has been throwing about the average amount of interceptions his entire career with an average ranking of 12th on the interception leaders list. His interception numbers are actually similar to those of Tom Brady for most of his career with the Patriots. 11 of his 18 seasons (not counting 2000 or 2008) with the team he threw for 10 or more interceptions.
If you were expecting Newton to be just as good as the greatest signal-caller of all time, you had too high expectations. Especially with the lousy supporting cast that surrounded him in 2020. As much as Jakobi Meyers was a solid piece, he is in no way, shape, or form a number one wide receiver. It’s arguable that the Patriots still don’t have one even after Nelson Agholor signed with the team back in March. Though the acquisitions of tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry could prove to be a fantastic help to Newton. Super Cam was at his best in Carolina when Greg Olsen was up and ready for the ball. Newton now has two top 12 tight ends in the NFL on one roster.
Myth #2: “He’s a selfish player.”
This is easily the worst myth of any. It is almost blatant with its stereotyping of black quarterbacks in the NFL. If a quarterback has mobility or the ability to scramble as the pocket collapses, they’re viewed as a selfish player. This has never once been true in the NFL. Rushing touchdowns for a quarterback are just as valuable as passing ones on the scoreboard. If Cam Newton was actively looking off wide-open receivers like these armchair quarterbacks say he does, I can guarantee you that Bill Belichick would have looked elsewhere at the position.
The fact of the matter is simply that the Patriots receivers could not get open. It was either force a ball into a position to be a turnover, scramble out of the pocket and wait for something to unfold, or take off and run. Newton was sacked 31 times last season, ranking 10th in the entire NFL. According to PFF again, he only scrambled off-script 20 times. It’s not like he’s ignoring the play calls or receivers here. Saying he’s only rushing the ball for his sake is absolutely ridiculous and ignorant.
Myth #3: “He’s not (nor has he ever been) an effective passer.”
It seems impossible to Patriots fans that last year was just a bad year for Cam Newton. That him catching COVID-19 early in the season, having no real off-season to learn the playbook, and coming off of a nasty set of injuries had nothing to do with his struggles in 2020. The cognitive dissonance is almost laughable when it comes to the rejectors of Newton. He was thrown into a situation where it was a struggle for even Tom Brady the year prior to get anything going offensively. We all agree 2019 was also a disappointing year for the Patriots, correct? If you don’t, you’re probably deserving of a seat in the corner with a dunce hat. Here’s a simple stat comparison between the two quarterbacks of the Patriots the last two seasons alone.
I know that those stats are a little cherry-picked, but if you want to compare the difference between Brady and Newton so bad I’ll play the game. Cam Newton did about the same in those respective stats that Tom Brady did with a 100 catch Julian Edelman with comparable supporting casts. He was out in 2020 due to his chronic knee injury that forced his retirement at age 34. We blamed the supporting cast of Tom Brady for his struggles in 2019. But when it comes to Cam Newton, it seems as though we just gloss over that and the further impossible obstacles he had to overcome just to say he’s terrible. Are you catching a trend here?
If your mind isn’t changed at this point, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve boiled it down past a point where it’s just “objective truth”, as some of you readers like to call it, that Cam Newton is a bum quarterback. It’s just a really bad and inconsistent hill to die on because these fans didn’t talk the same about other quarterbacks dealing with similar situations in 2020.
I’m not saying to buy in on the Patriots going 17-0. Or that Cam Newton will return to his 35 touchdowns, 3,500 yards 2015-16 MVP form. But I will tell you it’s unfair to Cam Newton to critique his 2020 campaign so vigorously. A bad offensive core, filling in the shoes of the greatest quarterback in NFL history, no off-season to learn the playbook or connect with teammates, and catching COVID-19 just ahead of the biggest game of their season yet, missing two weeks of football. Pump the hate brakes Pats fans, You’ll get Mac McCorkle Jones in time. but you have Cam Newton for this season. I promise you it will be a whole lot more enjoyable to get behind your teams’ quarterback. Rather than continue to find ways to hate and chastise him.
If it’s still “In Bill Belichick we trust.”, then why aren’t we doing it with his decision at Cam Newton? I’ll be hearing your thoughts in the comments. But I hope this makes some of you a little more optimistic about the 2021-22 season. Which I also happened to preview earlier this week here.