I know it’s been one game, but I would be lying to you if I said I haven’t thoroughly loved the Cam Newton era in New England.
I’m very well aware that we’ve only been going down this road for a short time, and in three or four weeks I might be singing a different tune, but in this moment right now, if you’re a New England Patriots fan, how can you not be excited about what we’ve seen and heard about Super Cam?
For the last five years I couldn’t help but think about a future without Tom Brady. I didn’t see it as gloom and doom as other fans. I’ve always believed that as long as the Patriots have Bill Belichick, there is always a chance. But, I knew that New England couldn’t just up and replace Brady. There needed to be some sort of bridge quarterback. As fun as it was to think about the prospect of Jarrett Stidham stepping in and replicating the same success that Belichick had with Brady, I knew that it was just a pipe dream. The Patriots needed at least one quarterback in between Tom Brady and his eventual long term replacement. With that all being said, when I would think about this scenario, I never envisioned that Cam Newton would be available and Belichick would be able to sign him.
Not only have the Patriots found their bridge quarterback, they may have found their quarterback for the next five years. At only 31-years-old, Cam Newton showed against the Miami Dolphins that he’s not ready to slow down, and if things keep going the way they did last Sunday, don’t be surprised when you hear the news that Belichick has extended Newton’s contract.
But what is it that I love about the Cam Newton era with the Patriots? The answer is as long and complicated as it is short and easy. It’s a different kind of energy. Tom Brady was a competitor, Brady brought the best out in people. But as much as Brady was begging for a pat on the back from Belichick, receivers and tight ends outside of Brady’s inner circle were looking for the same thing. The older Brady got, the better he got, but he also grew more impatient. If you didn’t immediately meet the Brady standards, you got frozen out. A perfect example of that is N’Keal Harry.
Harry struggled to make a connection with Brady after he came back from his injury. Brady didn’t feel that it was his job to coach and prepare rookies, and he wanted proven veterans. Josh McDaniels had a lot of heat thrown at him, and he was accused of not properly using Harry in the game plan with some Patriots fans even describing his play calling as vanilla. But, after watching the Dolphins game, I’m starting to believe that McDaniels was taking his lumps for Brady.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: N’Keal Harry hasn’t lived up to the expectations of being a first round draft pick. Patriots fans are quickly losing or have already lost their patience with him. Fumbling the ball on the goal line negated what would have been a game icing touchdown also did nothing to help his cause.
This is where you start to see the difference between Tom Brady and Cam Newton, and why even though Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL, let alone for the New England Patriots, Cam Newton may be the perfect quarterback for this team right now.
When asked about Harry’s fumble on a Wednesday afternoon video call, Cam Newton offered a fierce defense of the second-year receiver’s afternoon instead.
“I spoke with N’Keal and let’s just put a lot of things into perspective here. Did he have a good game? Yes, he did,” Newton said. "I think that one play overshadowed the production that he did have. He bailed me out on a play, on a kinda inaccurate pass that he came down with and got a first down. He did pretty good in the run game. He had a couple contested catches. And all that was kinda for not because a lot of people just focused on the fumble.
“And granted, I’ll be the first person to tell you that he knows — or he will be the first person to tell you that he knows that is unacceptable. But obviously when you just put things into perspective and you call an apple an apple and a spade a spade, it was just one mistake. Him still being a young player and trying to come into his own, things like that will happen.”
I’m not saying that if this keeps happening Newton won’t lose his patience, but it’s a very different from the approach we saw with Brady last season.
Last December, the Patriots faced the Houston Texans and Harry was out-muscled on a first-quarter slant that went for an interception. Brady froze him out for the rest of the game after that. The quarterback didn’t look Harry’s way the rest of the night and the Patriots lost, 28-22.
When asked about the play, Brady said: “I threw it and they got it, bad result.”
Brady often came to Mohamed Sanu’s defense, a veteran receiver who kept dropping the ball. Brady defended Julian Edelman after he dropped a couple of crucial passes, neither player was ever frozen out, but when Harry made a mistake, his night was done.
This isn’t a knock on Tom Brady, but Newton and Brady are at very different stages in their lives, and Brady was not the right quarterback for this current Patriots team. Newton is. His bright smile and dancing have left some crusted old Patriots fans questioning his fit in the organization, but everybody from Belichick to Edelman has had nothing but positive things to say about him.
Newton knew the task he had in front of him: he was replacing the most popular athlete not just in Boston, but around the world. Not just anybody could have stepped in and taken on that role, but Newton has the mental makeup to take over for the iconic #12.
The Patriots offense looks different, and what we saw against Miami is just how creative Josh McDaniels can be with Newton at the helm. Earlier this week McDaniels alluded that we may see a different offensive scheme heading into the Patriots primetime game against the Seattle Seahawks, and if that’s the case, I am very excited to see what they come up with.
My biggest take away from Cam Newton’s first game with the Patriots: this team is only going to get better. Belichick and McDaniels have now seen what Newton looks like in a game.
Bill Belichick seems to have hit another home run signing Cam Newton.