The New England Patriots have made no secret about who their starting quarterback is so far this summer. Incumbent Cam Newton was the first man up through most of the training camp drills so far, and he also started the two preseason contests versus the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles.
Along the way, the two most important coaches on the team’s offensive staff also reaffirmed his status. Head coach Bill Belichick called Newton the team’s starter in late July, with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels sending the same message on Sunday.
When asked about the competition between Newton and first-round rookie Mac Jones, McDaniels stated that his focus lies elsewhere at the moment but that Newton remains the team’s QB1 for now.
“I know this is going to sound silly, but I haven’t really worried about it. I think that decision from Bill [Belichick] will be made when the time is right to make it,” McDaniels said.
“Cam certainly is the starter now, and he has done a good job. He has gone in there, he played well the other night. He’s practiced well. But, I know those guys are really competing hard and we’re giving them an opportunity to compete and play a lot of football.”
Newton, as mentioned above, started both of the Patriots’ preseason games this year — something he was unable to do in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Now in his second season and in a much more favorable situation, he appears to be on the inside track to keep the starting role even with Jones performing very well.
That said, the quarterback battle is not over yet. Belichick himself said so on Monday morning during an appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show. While he acknowledged that Newton would be more comfortable within the team’s offense, and that the unit as a whole is improved compared to last year’s, he also said that every position on the roster is subject to competition regardless of what may or may not have happened the previous season.
“The fact that Cam started last year, and he’s here, somebody would have to play better than him,” Belichick said.
“We’re not just going to take a job and say, ‘Here, this is gift-wrapped for somebody.’ But training camp is all about competition. There’s an element to who the starter is, but there’s also a competition and the end of the competition’s going to decide how things go in any given year. And I think everybody on the team’s really in the same boat. It’s no different. The player’s name doesn’t matter.
“Whatever you did last year, okay great, whether it was good or wasn’t so good. This is a new year, this is a new opportunity. Each one of us has to establish our level of performance this year. It doesn’t matter what position we play. Head coach, position coach, offensive player, defensive player, whatever it is. What that role becomes is what we show, or what we’re capable of doing.”
Belichick added that all players on the roster are being evaluated and given an opportunity to showcase their talents. However, he also said that roles will have to be earned — something that has not changed ever since he arrived more than 20 years ago.
“We’re certainly not going to hand out roles to players until they earn them,” he said on Monday morning. “Whether somebody earns that role or not is dependent upon their performance, their consistent performance — not over a couple of plays or a really short window. It’s consistent performance, that’s what training camp is for. All the players, it’s the same for all of them.”
Consistent performance was also mentioned by Josh McDaniels on Sunday. He also pointed out that consistency comes in many forms.
“We need to be able to play consistently well. We need to communicate well. We need to make good decisions. We need to throw the ball accurately. We need to protect the football and not give it away,” McDaniels said.
“To me, I look at those guys in the same light in regards to what we’re trying to accomplish. Ultimately, when any decision is made based on who is going to play more or less on our team, those decisions will be made when the time is right and we’re going to go forward and try and play the best we can.”
For the time being, however, he seems happy with where his position group as a whole is headed.
“I am very pleased with the effort that we’re putting in at the quarterback position, the improvements we’re making and the way that we’re attempting to run the offense,” McDaniels said. “Everything isn’t perfect. We still have a long way to go and things we can work on and improve and make better, but I think the desire to do it, the way we want to do it to the standard that we’re trying to hold them to I think is right where we want it to be.”
Whether or not that means that Cam Newton or Mac Jones will lead the troops into battle Week 1 remains to be seen. However, both men will continue competing for the job regardless of who is named the starter ahead of the regular season.