Revisiting the Cam Newton Decision for the Patriots

One of the biggest storylines during the preseason for the New England Patriots was about the QB position. The Pats had re-signed Cam Newton to a 1-year deal and also drafted the heir apparent, Mac Jones, at #15 overall. The question wasn’t if Mac would be the starter, but rather how soon he would be handed the reigns. The Pats obviously made the decision to go all-in on Mac and released Newton to the open market. It took 9 weeks, but Cam found himself back in Carolina as their starting QB after an injury to Sam Darnold.

In his first start with the Panthers less than a week after signing, he played just 9 snaps and had a significant impact. He completed 3 of his 4 passes, including a passing TD and a 14-yard rushing TD. After his first touchdown he yelled “I’m back!” and instantly became a meme magnet. In his first game back as a starter in Carolina, he lost to the Washington Football Team, but put up strong numbers (21 of 27 for 189 yards and 2 TDs as well as 10 rushes for 46 yards and a TD). It seemed like Cam was comfortable and had a chance to resurrect his career back where it started. Then, as quickly as it began, the tires began falling off.

Since his strong performance against the Football Team, Cam has plummeted back to earth and looked exactly as expected, if not worse. In his last 4 games, Cam has gone 45 of 95 (47.3%) with 1 TD and 5 INTs, with 3 rushing TDs and 4 fumbles. The “I’m back!” memes aren’t exactly aging well these days. Cam is clearly past his prime and there are very few people, if anyone, who still think Cam should have been the Pats starter this season, but with Mac’s recent struggles, it was worth checking in on the former Pats QB. For those jumping on the “Mac is over-rated train”, let’s see what Mac has been up to over the last 4 games.

Over his last 4 games, Mac has gone 65 for 112 (58%) with 773 yards and that includes the 3 throw wind-game in Buffalo (19 yards). This stretch of games has been fairly pedestrian and the worst of his young career with only 4 TDs and 4 INTs and a 2-2 record. Despite the struggles, Mac has been better than many other QBs in the NFL, including Newton. Mac has 286 more yards and 11% higher completion rate over that span.

I know it’s a bit unfair to compare the two when the teams around them are very different and the situations are very different, but it’s a kind reminder to Pats fans that even a mediocre performance from Mac Jones, is still miles ahead of the alternative this year. Rookie QBs will all go through struggles early in their careers, it’s one of the disadvantages of young talent, but overall, Mac has been stellar in his first year in the league. At 23 years old, Mac has amassed 3,313 passing yards, 18 TDs and 12 INTs in his first 15 games as a professional, including an impressive 67.2% completion percentage and 7.2 yards gained per pass attempt. Rookie or not, that’s an incredibly strong season thus far.

The standards are sky-high in New England and expectations are a deep playoff run or heads will roll. While I’d love to be surprised, I don’t think this team is talented enough for a deep postseason run in 2021, but it’s not because they have a rookie QB at the helm (hint: it’s the defense). One thing I can say with almost absolute certainty: if Cam was the QB instead of Mac, this team is not even in a position to think about the postseason. Take the good with the bad, but overall, life is still good in New England.

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