You heard Bill Belichick correctly on Saturday.
“Cam Newton is our starting quarterback, I think I’ve said that.”
That’s a direct quote from him.
There was another one before that, though, that you shouldn’t ignore: “I’m sure it’ll be a hard decision.”
The QB position isn’t like the wide receiver or outside linebacker position, for example. You can’t just rotate people in and out of the lineup and not name a set starter. You have to have someone taking the majority of the reps with the ones in practice, and he is your starting QB, even if there is a full blown competition going on. So, with that in mind, what should we take from Belichick’s comments?
First, it means that the New England Patriots’ starting job is Cam Newton’s to lose. Anyone who has been paying attention knows this. There are many factors that go into the decision on who to start at QB, as Belichick himself pointed out on Saturday, and the incumbent checks a whole lot of boxes.
Quarterback might be the most important position in professional sports, and the most scrutinized. That’s an awful lot of pressure for a rookie, especially with a solid team around him. The position is also one of the most respected in the locker room, and Cam has the love and respect of his teammates as evidenced by their statements and the fact he was voted a team captain last year just two months after his arrival. That alone is worth something.
Then, you need to factor in Newton’s ability to run the ball. He needs to be able to throw better than he did last year, sure, but the running ability gives him an edge over Mac Jones in another key area. For all these reasons, Newton is the projected starter at the moment.
Now, let’s focus on what else Belichick said.
He hasn’t officially named a starter yet, which should tell us that it is still open for competition. If Jones plays great, and outplays Newton, while also showing that he’s ready to start in the NFL, then he will be the starter.
He has a hill to climb, because he not only has to win over the coaching staff, but also the team. That’s one of the biggest reasons I believe that Newton will start the year at QB. The team loves and respects him already. Starting him is the easy decision.
I don’t think the decision that Belichick has to make is as difficult as he says. Newton is the quarterback, unless it becomes obvious that he no longer should be. I’m sure a lot of fans want Jones to start right away, but it simply is a better decision to have the veteran get the call, until the youngster is ready or he shows that he does not deserve the QB1 title.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast. Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats.