Cam Newton vs. the Patriot Way: Will Superman Provide a Culture Shock in New England?
Report after report said that Cam Newton was "unlikely" to sign with the New England Patriots earlier this offseason. But that was before the bomb dropped on June 28 that the MVP signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Patriots. New England becomes the first ever team ever to lose a former MVP quarterback and gain a former MVP quarterback in the same offseason (per NFL research), and I expect Bill Belichick was smiling his little smile at home as the world reacted to the news.
I think that all of us were sad to see the end of the Tom Brady era. I think that most of us were a little concerned about Jarrett Stidham and his ability to fill Brady's big shoes, but willing to see what he could do. And I think that we all had faith in Bill Belichick to figure it out one way or another.
Belichick is known for three things: showing almost no emotion... ever, cut off hoodies, and his coaching brilliance, which over the years has turned into the "Patriot Way." With that being said, it is also known he runs a tight ship in Foxboro. When players talk to the media, their answers are much of the same. They work hard and often times sacrifice fun in order to get results. It is key to remain on Belichick's good side, or you might be benched.
Signing Newton was another example of Belichick's brilliance, as this is really a win-win situation for both the Patriots and Newton. The team gets a former MVP quarterback at a low cost, and Newton finally gets the opportunity to play again.
Now the question is: does Newton have the potential to change "Patriot Way"? And the answer to that is absolutely... if he can stay healthy and be the player he once was.
As the 2011 first overall draft pick, Newton had a lot to prove and he showed his worth on the field right away. Playing all 16 games, he racked up 4,051 yards and became the only rookie quarterback to throw over 4000 yards, 21 touchdowns, and had a 60% completion rate. Not only that, but he also rushed for 706 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, the most of any rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Newton also had notable seasons in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2015, which was his MVP season when the Panthers lost in Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, after multiple shoulder surgeries and foot surgery, Newton has shown over the last couple years he is injury prone, mainly due to this play style, which is why he landed on injured reserve last season and was released by Carolina this offseason.
Most recently Newton has also shown that he has drive and now a little humility. He has been posting on his Instagram page throughout the rehab of his injuries, saying he is ready to play again. He also said on Thursday in response to such a low paying contract that "this is not about the money for me, it's about respect." A dose of humble from a quarterback that was not known for it in his early professional years.
Brady was a great thrower and some tout him as the best to ever play the game. However, the game is changing. Dual-threat quarterbacks are the new normal. The position is getting more athletic and quarterbacks are expected to make quick decisions to run if necessary, of if you're Lamar Jackson, you just run anyway.
Contingent on if he plays, and just how well he plays, Newton could change the standard of what being a Patriot quarterback means, a daunting task following in the footsteps of Brady.
But the Patriot Way is not all about the talent. It's about doing your job. Players are expected to show up to practice, work their absolute hardest to get the best results, and have a team-first attitude. Six rings in the last two decades says it all. There's no doubt Newton works hard, but he has a tendency to be outspoken and flashy.
In 2012, he was deemed as one of the most arrogant players in the league by Bleacher Report. In 2017, he made a sexist comment to a female reporter after she asked him a question during a press conference, saying it was "funny to hear a female talk about routes." And let's not forget that he popularized the dab as a celebration in the end zone.
This is completely different from what we've grown used to with Brady, the calm, cool and collected guy. Brady has his moments and has done his fair share of trash talking, but has a more subtle way of going about it, something that aligns more with Belichick. There is great potential for Newton and his new head coach to clash when it comes to personality.
Between their different playing styles and attitudes, Cam Newton could create a culture shock in New England. If the team, Belichick, and fans embrace him and he has a good season, we could be looking at the new Patriot Way. But first, he needs to prove he is healthy and that he can stay healthy.