Warrior Weekly: Cam Newton’s release and its wider impact

WSPNs Aditya Weling discusses the Patriots releasing Cam Newton and its wider impact on the team.

WSPN’s Aditya Weling discusses the Patriots releasing Cam Newton and its wider impact on the team.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s officially Mac Jones time in New England. We got official confirmation early on August 31, in a move that sent waves throughout the sports world. Bill Belichick, the head coach and general manager of the Patriots since 2000, sent former-MVP Cam Newton packing, releasing him to make way for 1st round draft pick rookie Mac Jones. Fan reaction has been mostly positive, but the real test will follow in the many Sundays to come in what many hope will be a new reign of dominance in Foxborough.

There’s nothing like an offseason quarterback battle. Two quarterbacks, often at drastically different points in their careers, fighting tooth and nail to take the first snap for their team in September. We had the privilege of watching a few unfold this summer. Whether it was Teddy Bridgwater and Drew Lock up in mile-high, or Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance in the Bay, tension is bound to come about. New England was no exception. Cam Newton was coming off a COVID-riddled, up-and-down first season with the Patriots that ended with a losing record, something that his predecessor, Tom Brady, never did in his 20-year Patriot career. Mac Jones, the 15th-overall pick in this year’s draft, was coming off one of the greatest college passing seasons ever which resulted in a National Championship.

Early on, and even in the days leading up to the shocker of the offseason, it seemed like the starting job was Newton’s to lose. He had taken most, if not all, of the 1st-team snaps during training camp. While Jones was impressive, he didn’t have any NFL experience. But then the preseason started. Jones went off, completing almost 70% of his passes while posting a passer rating over 97. What’s more, according to Pro Football Focus, Jones had the highest preseason passer grade — ever.

What most people are pointing to as the real turning point in this QB duel, however, came on August 23, only two and a half weeks before the Patriots were set to suit up for their week one matchup with the Miami Dolphins. Due to COVID protocols, notably applicable to only those who are unvaccinated, Cam Newton was forced to sit out the five days leading up to the third and final preseason game. News soon followed that the reported “misunderstanding” between Newton and the team was “very frustrating” inside the front office and coaching staff. Jones, however, took full advantage of the opportunity. Now getting all the first-team reps, he got some highly commendatory reviews coming out of the team’s joint practices with their final preseason foe, the New York Giants. The debate began to heat up. Cam or Mac?

Then came the aforementioned final preseason game against the Giants. In somewhat of a surprise fashion, Cam came out on the field to start the game, playing the first two series in a lackluster fashion and throwing an interception. Even though Jones had a third straight stellar performance after he took over, the fact that Newton got the first-team snaps had most believing that Newton would remain the starter. However, Bill Belichick had other plans. Two days later, on the last day of August, news broke early Tuesday morning that the Patriots released Cam Newton, and Mac Jones would take over as the starting quarterback.

Now, there is much debate over the real reason behind Newton’s release. The COVID-19 snafu, his struggles last season or Jones just simply outplaying him are all valid possibilities. However, rather than looking at the past, what’s more important for Newton now is the future. Without a team so late into the process, it’s tough to make out a landing spot for him. There were some rumblings about Dallas soon after the news came out, but those seem to have faded as quickly as they came in. Newton, an avid social media user, has made it clear that the end is nowhere near as far as he’s concerned. However, maybe the time to be concerned is already here.

At the end of the day, all eyes will be on Mac Jones once the dust settles, and for good reason. While some might point out that he is technically replacing Cam Newton, for the New England faithful, Jones will be tasked with trying to live up to even a percentage of Tom Brady’s career. It’s never easy replacing the G.O.A.T., but if Jones even comes close, he will be remembered forever.