Were the Bears Better off Waiting for Cam Newton?

Gene Chamberlain

If the old Mitchell Trubisky-Deshaun Watson-Patrick Mahomes controversy seemed kind of stale, at least there's a new quarterback controversy involving general manager Ryan Pace for Bears fans to bemoan.

Cam Newton's release by the Carolina Panthers led to the inevitable backlash in Chicago. Bears fans began droning on about how they could have had Newton without giving up a fourth-round draft pick to trade for Nick Foles.

At least it was refreshing to hear instead of the usual bleating about Watson, Mahomes and Trubisky.

Ian Rapoport had reported the Panthers tried to trade Newton to the Bears and Chargers during the early part of free agency but found no takers.

In the meantime, the Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater, traded backup quarterback Kyle Allen to the Washington Redskins and brought in PJ Walker from the XFL as a backup. And now they have released Newton.

That's right, new Redskins coach Ron Rivera had Newton in Carolina and could have waited for him, too, but wouldn't do it. In fact, he traded for Allen, Newton's backup who left much to be desired with his play last year.

A report by ESPN's John Keim said Washington has no interest in Newton because he would be too big a threat to starter Dwayne Haskins.

So if the coach who had Newton was more interested in his backup, why should Ryan Pace be interested? 

Rvera knows more about Newton's failings than others might.The coronavirus  in place across the league prevents medical evaluations of NFL players by interested teams but the Panthers said they gave Newton a complete checkup according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. That's like the used-car salesman telling you he gave the car a good once over so there's no need to worry, just fork over the cash.

Newton is coming off Lisfranc surgery but also had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in January of 2019.

The shoulder situation is a real concern because it involves his passing motion. Lisfranc surgeries heal if given the right amount of time.  Newton only played two games after the  shoulder surgery before his season-ending foot surgery. He was reported to have said he altered his throwing motion after the shoulder surgery.

So whether he can even throw like he did prior to the surgery is open to debate.

Nick Foles vs. Cam Newton

2016 through 2020

Since 2016 Opener
Completion Percentage
Touchdown Pct.
Interception Pct.
Passer Rating
Recorrd As Starter

Nick Foles

66.7%

4.3%

1.7%

90.7

7-6

Cam Newton

59.6%

4.2%

2.8%

82.6

13-13

After the shoulder surgery Newton completed 50 of 89 for 572 yards, a completion mark of 56.2%, with one interception and no touchdowns. His passer rating was 71.0.

This is all teams have to go on. That physical the Panthers gave him means nothing. Teams want to look at him themselves to see if there is a question about his shoulder and his foot.

The Bears would have deserved every bit of criticism if they had turned down a similar chance to get Newton of 2015. He was an MVP and took Carolina to an NFC title.

In the last four years, though, Newton has become someone else. Time and hits change everyone in the NFL, and there are only so much banging around a quarterback can take.

Foles has had his ups and downs, but in the last four years he compares favorably to Newton health-wise and in terms of statistics. If you toss in Foles' playoff stats, he entirely outplayed Newton over four years.

Foles has been a combination starter and backup and has completed 66.5% with 1.7% interceptions, 3.8% touchdowns, a passer rating of 90.7 and 6.6 yards an attempt. If you toss in Foles' playoff performances, for five games his passer rating climbs to 92.9 with 27 TDs and 13 interceptions.

No doubt Newton of 2015 is better than Foles of 2020 or even Foles of 2017, for that matter.

The problem is Newton hasn't been the Cam of 2015. It was a long time ago.  The best he can be is a healthy Newton of 2020, and that's never going to be as good as the healthy Newton of 2015. 

Much of Newton's success in past years had to do with his willingness to play with reckless abandon and throw around his body. It becomes less and less likely he can go back and recapture that style of play as he ages.

Newton might be better than he showed the last couple of years, but thinking he can be what he was in 2015 is living in the past.

Remember what Mike Ditka said about the past: Those who live in the past are cowards and losers.

Foles was their choice and they have to live with it. The fourth-round pick they gave up was actually more like a fifth-rounder, coming two picks after the regular end to the fourth round and nine compensatory picks ahead of the fifth.

Less than a week ago the fact the Bears had a quarterback capable of beating out Trubisky seemed to please many of their followers.

This hasn't changed. 

What has changed is some really hard-to-please people found another source for their incessant irritation.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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