With the departure of future hall of famer Tom Brady this past off-season, the New England Patriots are staring down their first quarterback battle in 20 years. The club recently made headlines by signing former MVP Cam Newton to help bolster a quarterback room that isn’t very impressive.
Newton was signed on an incentive laden one-year, $7.5 million contract that brings him into quarterback room that includes veteran Brian Hoyer, and the projected starter Jarrett Stidham. With the way his contract is structured — and the 31-year old’s decline during his last few years in Carolina — it is crystal clear that he’s been brought in as depth and to challenge Stidham as he enters his second season in the NFL.
At 6′ 3″, the second-year quarterback has familiarity with Josh McDaniels’ offense and the wide receivers on the Patriots roster. He’s also has the added benefit of being more of a prototypical pocket passer than Newton. This makes him a more natural fit for the offense that the Pats run. It wouldn’t be shocking for this to make a difference as the training camp battle develops.
In college, Stidham wasn’t asked to pass the ball a whole lot. His two years at Auburn saw him attempt only 739 passes with 36 touchdowns and 11 total interceptions. He was in a run heavy offense that needed him to keep the defense out of the box..which he was able to do perfectly. If he does win this starting job, it would be wise for New England to rely more on its ground game to help take the pressure off of its young quarterback.
As for Newton, the former MVP saw his performance and health decline over the last couple of seasons with the Panthers. In 2015, Cam started in 16 games while completing 59.8% of his passes, and he averaged 7.8 yards per attempt with touchdowns on 7.1% of his attempts (35) and an interception rate of 2% (10); this meant that Newton’s MVP campaign ended with a passer rating of 99.4, the highest of his career.
In the following four seasons, the former franchise quarterback started in 14, 16, 14, and two games respectively — Newton was benched and replaced by Kyle Allen. While his completion rate was relatively steady, he saw his touchdown rate plummet to 3.7% in the season following his MVP year; it did rebound a bit in ’17 and ’18, but his interception rate increased and the teams record fluctuated.
Brian Hoyer is the other quarterback that might, kind of have a shot at the starting job. But it’s highly unlikely the guy with a career touchdown rate of 3.5% and interception rate of 2.3% seriously figures into the competition, especially since he is the oldest of the three at 34 years old.
What will the Patriots do?
This really could go two way for the six-time champions. If they decide they want to continue to compete now and make sure that the talent on defense and offense is used to push for more playoff spots this and, potentially, next year; a healthy Cam Newton is probably going to give them a better chance than a green Stidham. With Bill Bellicheck getting older, trying to squeeze another championship out of this roster and coach would be very tempting for the front office.
If New England decides to rebuild for a couple of years, than Stidham is the smart choice. They can spend the curret season evaluating whether or not he is really the guy for their future, and if it would be worth it to build around him in 2021 for a run in 2022 or 2023. And honestly, this would be the smart choice.
It can be hard to admit that your championship window has closed, and trying to drag it out with banged up veteran quarter back after banged up vet is a good way to ensure your franchise slips into irrelevance. New England should make the move now to see if its 2019 fourth round draft pick has what it takes to become the face of the future; or if they need to pick another quarterback to lead them going forward.
Proud alum of Washington State University, crazy sports nut, and drinker of beer.