The real winner here is all of us.
No longer will watching the Patriots win be a twinge uncomfortable, the players nervously milling about the post-game festivities like the psychologically tortured children of overcompetitive Texas high school football parents.
Cam Newton is fun. He’ll wear great hats. He’ll probably do good impressions of Bill Belichick, just like he did Norv Turner. Have you ever seen parents around their grandchildren for the first time and wondered where these affable, jovial people came from? This is Belichick’s twilight phase. Newton is the carefree talisman of a new phase in life.
But like every large-scale transaction in the NFL, there are two sides of the coin. Some people will benefit from the offseason’s most consequential move. Some people, most certainly, will not. Here is a list of said people as best we can tell.
The NFL is mirroring general society in that the fortunate seem to be building castle walls around their spoils and locking them in. The only challenge for Patriots fans will be adjusting their collective identities around another quarterback narrative that isn’t Tawmy werked his way up from the sixth rawnd. My guess is that when Cam Newton is posting comical Madden numbers en route to 30-point divisional victories, they’ll find a way to move on. There really isn’t a comparison to being a Patriots fan in the 2000s, it’s really incredible. And the best part is, this will be a totally different way of winning than they’ve done in the past. Maybe a more entertaining version of winning. It’s like upgrading from Yachting to Speed Yachting!
I wish I got the kind of consistent, basic satisfaction out of anything the way Belichick does in prodding his employer (by this, I mean the NFL). We’ll get to the timing of the Cam Newton announcement in a minute, but the mechanics of it are also something. Should the Patriots play their cards right, they’re in line to recoup a compensatory third-round pick from Newton by the time they are slated to lose a third-round pick for illegally taping the sidelines of a Cincinnati Bengals game last year. From a coaching standpoint, he gives himself the best possible kind of fresh start; the one that almost guarantees a certain level of success at a time when some expected him to stumble.
I think Josh McDaniels does not get enough credit for his role in the Patriots’ structure, which has a chance to be rectified to some degree in 2020. Regardless, McDaniels will remain a viable head coaching candidate despite stiffing the Colts and have his choice of plum gigs that feature ready-to-win veteran quarterbacks. He also gets to work with a quarterback who represents the actual, delivered promise of the Tim Tebow selection McDaniels made as head coach of the Broncos back in 2010. Newton is impossible to defend as a runner and is devastating as a passer, which could stoke McDaniels’s creativity and allow him to run something closer to what he’d hoped during his first stint as a head coach.
Public relations buffs
A former strategist to the current President suggested that the secret to lessening the sting of unfavorable news is to “flood the zone with s---.” What took place on Sunday night wasn’t quite a flooding—maybe it resembled something closer to the old informational trojan horse—but the result was pretty masterful. The Patriots were dinged $1.1 million, they lost a third-round pick in 2021 and their film crew will not be able to film games during the 2020 season, which was all information we received (via the same outlet) as the Cam Newton news, just 16 minutes later. Whether or not there is more there there, the fact that our attention was already firmly embedded in the Newton move was a masterful okeydoke from team Patriots. Truthfully, our collective consciousness was probably just starving for some news that did not involve a kind of social, economic or political despair and the surge we got from envisioning this type of fantasy football transaction was cover for all types of less-than-savory activities.
The Jarrett Stidham content mill
There exists a legion of sportswriters who make a fine living waiting to see which way the wind blows and then acting like they were the meteorologist who predicted it all along (please don’t look up my past work to determine whether or not I’m guilty as well). I hesitate to call Jarrett Stidham a “loser” in this column because I don’t think that’s true. I think Stidham fell victim to the most unprecedented offseason in NFL history and his team felt the need to hedge their bets. I still believe there is a chance, if the season starts on time, that Stidham ends up piloting the offense for at least a few weeks. The losers are those who scoffed at the rest of the world for suggesting that Belichick might be after someone like Andy Dalton or Newton. Every football writer fancies himself or herself a faux Belichickian scholar when the truth is that, while we usually have a decent idea of what Belichick might do, he has built an entire career on simultaneously preparing something that we never would have expected. This is the true wisdom of a Belichickian scholar. Save your haughtiness.
I think there is an emotional component of every quarterback that makes them want to be missed when they are gone. Oddly, the three quarterbacks typically revered as the greatest of all time—Brady, Joe Montana and Brett Favre—did not have that luxury right away. Because of the cache of their replacements, it took time for perspective to solidify. Montana was consistently nipped and eventually replaced by the great Steve Young and Brady will now be theoretically swapped for 2015 MVP Cam Newton. Favre, like Montana, had to watch Aaron Rodgers eat into his late prime. Both Young and Newton were exciting and drastically different versions of the legends they replaced, which makes the process even more interesting. Here is a fan base that may not be pining for your return right away while, at the same time, unconsciously finding themselves a little more entertained.
Every other GM in the NFL
There is absolutely no reason that Cam Newton should have been on the scrap pile for this long, especially during a season when Belichick was considered somewhat vulnerable at the quarterback position. It is nothing short of malpractice. There were at least a half dozen teams that had competitive quarterback situations who could have lured Newton. There were plenty of teams with cap space to burn. Every team in the NFL could have utilized Newton as an appreciating asset. Instead, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter would later report, only one other team—the Cleveland Browns—bothered to pick up the phone and call.
I grew up around a lot of Bulls, Mariners and Cowboys fans in northeastern Pennsylvania—which was aggravating given that, like me, none of these other children had left the greater Scranton area before. I was diligent in my fandom, either inheriting the teams I was born with or, when it came to declaring NFL fandom, waiting for the next franchise to come into existence (Browns, womp womp). I think now of a middle school somewhere in Pennsylvania where the haughty Patriots fan child motors into the first day of school in a Cam Newton jersey ready to continue his or her tortuous behavior despite having no base in the New England area. Meanwhile, your team is stuck shuffling between Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb at quarterback and you’re trying to find a way to talk about anything other than the upcoming draft at the beginning of the season.
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