Cam Newton took Auburn University, the SEC and the football world by storm in the fall of 2010. He led the Tigers to the national championship and won the Heisman Trophy among other national awards.
Newton was the first pick in the NFL Draft, going to the Carolina Panthers where he had nine very productive seasons. He was voted the NFL MVP in 2015 while leading the Panthers to Super Bowl 50 despite ultimately dropping the game to the Denver Broncos, 24-10. He is the all-time leading passer for Carolina with 29,041 yards and 182 TDs. Newton also rushed for 4806 yards and 58 TDs.
Newton’s Panther career came to an end March 24 when the organization released him. He has been without a job and without a team ever since, but that all changed this weekend when the New England Patriots signed him to a one-year deal.
Most experts file this under the “typically shrewd business acquisition” we’ve come to expect from Bill Belichick and the Patriots — a win-win, so to speak.
When healthy, Newton was considered one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, but health has been a problem the last couple years. A shoulder injury in 2018 and a foot injury in 2019 both required surgery and both caused a lot of missed games. NFL teams were already understandably skeptical, but when adding in the COVID-19 situation, it multiplied everything by a thousand.
The Patriots offered Newton a one-year, incentive-based contract that essentially protects and rewards both parties. If Newton is 100% healthy and highly motivated, he will undoubtedly win the starting job and give New England an opportunity to be a legitimate playoff contender.
The Patriots win.
If he’s not healthy or simply out of gas, New England has young Jarrett Stidham, another Auburn graduate who many have labeled the heir apparent, and veteran Brian Hoyer. It’s entirely possible Stidham or Hoyer could win the starting job outright. If so, Newton would assuredly be considered the best backup in the NFL. In a league where injuries happen in the blink of an eye, that’s an incredibly valuable piece of the puzzle.
Again, the Patriots win.
It’s a terrific deal for New England and it’s a terrific deal for Newton. I couldn’t be happier for Newton. However, I’m a little concerned about how all of this is going to affect Stidham.
Stidham, of course, led Auburn to the SEC title game in 2017 and was a two-year starter on the Plains. It seemed as though he was in a perfect position to learn under an all-time great like Tom Brady and having an opportunity to play in a top-notch organization like the Patriots. He had positioned himself to be the starter in 2020.
Now, the acquisition of Newton throws a fairly sizable wrench into the mechanism. If Newton wins the job and plays exceptionally well, he’ll get a long-term extension and Stidham could be looking for work elsewhere. If Stidham wins the job, it’s going to be very difficult not to be looking over his shoulder every game at the imposing figure in the No. 1 jersey on the sideline.
The only way to truly succeed in the NFL is to play fearless. Quarterbacks who are afraid to make mistakes usually end up selling insurance.
I’m rooting for both guys and I hope they both succeed. It’s just hard for me to see how one man’s gain won’t be another man’s loss.