Even if Cam Newton is Cam Newton physically (which is about as likely as Boston Harbor going dry by the Fourth of July), the New England Patriots will have Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham or somebody else not named Cam Newton as their starting quarterback by the end of this season.
Did I mention Newton is a serial knucklehead?
Let’s start there.
I hear what you’re saying about knuckleheads and their history with Bill Belichick, the Patriots’ militaristic head coach who nevertheless is giving Newton and his “me, myself and I” philosophy during much of his 31 years on earth a one-year contract worth up to $7.5 million with incentives.
After Tom Brady left as a free agent for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the offseason, Belichick had only underwhelming backups Hoyer and Stidham to replace the greatest quarterback of this generation.
So Belichick dialed Newton’s number while thinking of Antonio Brown, Randy Moss, Aquib Talib, Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker and Corey Dillon.
Those were just some of the players who accepted The Patriots Way despite their histories as knuckleheads elsewhere in the NFL.
Not only that, but none of those gambles kept Belichick’s Patriots from winning 17 AFC East titles along the way to 13 trips to the AFC Championship Game and nine to the Super Bowl while winning six of them.
It’s just that those other knuckleheads acquired by the Patriots weren’t as injury prone as Newton when they arrived in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
In 2019, Newton spent the last of his nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers missing the final 14 games due to a foot injury. The previous year, he didn’t play the Panthers’ closing two games courtesy of a bad shoulder.
There also was the combination of Newton’s knee issue, rotator cuff problem, concussion and other aches and pains since 2016, and get this: It’ll only get worse for this guy whose middle name has gone from “Jerrell” to “fragile.”
By NFL standards, Newton is ancient at 30-something as a running quarterback of 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds whose game is built around charging through and over people.
Yeah, medical folks in Newton’s native Atlanta declared him healthy in March, but the NFL regular season starts in September.
Game-related injuries have zapped Newton’s production since he won the NFL’s Most Valaube Player Award in 2015 while taking the Panthers to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Denver Broncos.
During the four seasons since Newton’s Panthers nearly won it all, they’ve had a combined 23-23 record, and among other signs of decline for Newton, particuarly in the passing game, he has spent his post-Super Bowl years with the fourth-worst completion percentage (53) on third down of any NFL quarterback.
The Panthers cut Newton in March within days after they signed free agent Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal worth $63 million.
What a contrast. Five years ago, the Panthers spent that summer extending Newton’s contract for five seasons at $103.8 million.
Then again, Newton was healthy back then, which contributed to Panthers officials holding their tongue regarding most Cam Things over the years.
About those Cam Things, which I mentioned this spring during a previous Forbes.com column . . .
- The dabbing.
- The cupping of his hand to his ear with a silly grin after doing, you know, whatever.
- The exaggerated first-down signals when he did what you’re supposed to do as an offensive player, you know, get first downs.
- The pouting on the sidelines.
- The pouting during press conferences.
- (Fill in the blank)
In October 2017, one of those Cam Things even caused sponsors to bolt his world after he laughed following a question from a woman reporter while saying, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.”
Dannon officials promptly dropped their $1 million deal with Newton, and others did the same or threatened as much.
Of course, NFL historians might say at this point that Moss once faked mooning a packed house at Lambeau Field in Green Bay after he scored a touchdown for his visiting Minnesota Vikings.
Goodness knows, you also had everything from Ochocinco’s end zone silliness with the Cincinnati Bengals to the various ways neither Dillon nor Talib auditioned as a Sunday School teacher before they joined the Patriots.
Those knuckleheads weren’t quarterbacks, though.
That’s the most important postion for any NFL team, especially for one that Forbes says is the league’s second most valuable franchise at $4.1 billion and spent the past two decades as a dynasty.
You know, with a quarterback who wasn’t a knucklehead.