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Cam Newton deserves our respect and thanks

I’m thankful for Cam Newton in 2020. You all should be too.

New England Patriots v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

If you’ve been reading anything I’ve written this offseason, you know that I wanted to see Cam Newton under center Week 1 against the Dolphins. I have been incredibly impressed with Mac Jones, I think he did more than enough this preseason to warrant the decision, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he can do once the season starts in earnest...but I have always been of the opinion that giving a young QB a year to learn the ropes in the NFL is the smarter play. After all, there are far more Blaine Gabberts, Brandon Weedens, Johnny Manziels, Sam Darnolds, Mitch Trubitskys, Vince Youngs, Jamarcus Russells, Sam Bradfords, Tim Couches, Blake Bortles, and EJ Manuels than there have been Matt Ryans, Andrew Lucks, Josh Allens, Deshaun Watsons, and Matthew Staffords. Three of the best QBs in the game right now - Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Tom Brady - all spent time behind an incumbent starter before taking up the starting role, and it just seems like the smart move in general.

However, with Cam Newton’s release, Mac Jones is the guy for 2021 and beyond. I still would have liked to see one more year of Cam, but I’m excited for the Mac Jones era to begin. Hopefully he can translate a strong preseason into a promising rookie season and the Patriots will be serious contenders once again in a few years. I know there are a fair number of Patriots fans who have been calling for this move since April, and even more who have wanted Cam gone long before that; Newton was benched three times in 15 starts, he only had eight touchdowns all season, and led the Patriots to their first losing season since 2000. For a fanbase used to winning and winning often, it was simply unacceptable, and in shockingly unique and unprecedented fashion, there was no shortage of derogatory comments from Patriots Nation. Cam stinks. Get him out of here. He’s washed up. New England isn’t going anywhere with this bum. On and on it went, all year long, and so I imagine there are are record number of new Steam fans in the New England region right now.

If you’re happy with the Mac Jones decision, good; there is every reason to be. If you don’t agree with it, that’s OK too - just know that the rookie has looked great and he clearly has the trust of the coaching staff, so I’d invite you to join the happy crowd. But no matter your stance on Mac Jones, Cam Newton, and the state of the team in general, one thing should be unequivocally and universally agreed upon.

We should all be very grateful for Cam Newton’s time in New England, and he deserves nothing but our utmost thanks and respect.

If there was a more unfavorable scenario for a quarterback to enter in the entire history of professional football, I don’t know what it is. As the quarterback for the Patriots in 2020, Cam Newton was asked to:

  • Sign with a new team at the very tail end of June, just over two months from the start of the season;
  • Learn a new, complex, timing and communication-based offense virtually with zero practices, training camps, direct coach interaction, or preseason games;
  • Become a good teammate and leader to, and gain the trust of, players he had never met and had very little contact with;
  • Replace the greatest quarterback of all time, most beloved Patriot of all time, and arguably the greatest player in the history of Boston sports, a few months after his departure came as a shock and many fans were still raw over the news;
  • Do it all in an unpredictable, semi-improvised, altered season with no fans in the stadium during a global pandemic in which the national narrative was constantly shifting;
  • Return to the field after catching Covid, even though he was never quite the same player;
  • Do it all for close to veteran minimum.

Not only did he do all of these things to the best of his ability, he did it while endearing himself to everyone inside the Patriots organization and a fair amount of a Boston sports media that usually only know how to write hit pieces. He was a phenomenal teammate, a great interview, and if he complained once, passed the buck, didn’t take responsibility, didn’t hold himself accountable, or represented himself poorly, I certainly missed it. Of all the virtually impossible things he was asked to do, he actually did most of them - it just didn’t ever really come together on the field for Cam Newton, both for circumstances within and beyond his control. It’s easy to forget based on the last two decades, but contract to popular belief, we as Patriots fans aren’t entitled to constant wins and elite QB play on every single down. If you can’t appreciate and respect that, I don’t really know what tell you.

New England probably could have kept him on as the backup QB, but I doubt that’s a role he really wanted. I imagine that his release was at least someone mutually agreed upon, as perhaps there’s need for him elsewhere (looking at you, Texas-based NFL teams). Last season didn’t end well for the Patriots, but I know that I’m grateful for Cam’s service. I’d like to hope that you all are too. You can be happy a guy is gone and still appreciative of what he did while he was here, and while Cam Newton won’t go down as the best quarterback this team has ever had, he came here when he was needed and delivered in a way that very few athletes could, given the circumstances.

So thanks, Cam. The very best of luck to you. If nothing else, you’ve endeared yourself to another fanbase. We’ll be rooting for you.