It may be time for the New England Patriots to channel the past at quarterback. To let bygones be bygones. To welcome back a Super Bowl contender from this past decade, one famous for wearing a No. 1 on his jersey.
We, of course, are referring to Cam Newton.
By now, little more needs to be said about what got the Patriots to the point of potentially allowing Newton back into the fold. Mac Jones is injured and the Patriots are left with an unsavory situation of working with 36-year-old journeyman Brian Hoyer and/or fourth-round, small college rookie Bailey Zappe while the franchise man heals. The group is immediately thrown into the fire when they face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday late afternoon (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox).
New England (1-2) will more than likely stick with Hoyer and Zappe until one or both prove they're incapable of maintaining substitute duties. But if they were to dial up any name left on the free agent front, Newton certainly stands out as the most accomplished and desirable target from abroad.
Most famous for his time with the Carolina Panthers, Newton is perhaps destined to go down in the same sentence as players like Darrelle Revis in the sense that he spent some time in New England but will forever be known for his endeavors elsewhere. Newton was the original Tom Brady successor during the 2020 season but was released among the Patriots' final training camp cuts in the ensuing summer.
In this most desperate hour, however, his lingering free agency should be something the Patriots look into.
Should New England look into a reunion? We have the case for ... and against ... it:
The Case for Cam
Say what you will when it comes to Newton having anything left in his tank. His last NFL showings featured a shadow of the Superman modern NFL fans loved to discuss and debate, a brilliant reunion with quarterback-starved Carolina (two touchdowns on his first two plays back in the Panthers' teal and black) gave way to the Newton that Patriots fans potentially tried to warn the rest of the world about, a Newton was a shadow of his former self, his brilliance chipped away by injuries.
But, if anything, talk about a man with something to prove.
The coming years will tell if Newton's recent output (24-28 record, 83.4 passer rating since his MVP effort in 2015) fully dilutes his NFL legacy. If he were to return to a Patriots group in relative chaos and help get an offense packed with potential but low on major NFL accomplishments moving in the right direction, he could perhaps leave a good taste in the mouths of his formerly adoring public.
Newton may be nowhere near the height of his gridiron powers and his single season with the Flying Elvis on his helmet will never be remembered fondly by those occupying Gillette Stadium's parking lot on Sunday afternoons. But it wouldn't be fair to say Newton's lone Foxboro tour was a total loss: he put in 592 yards and 12 scores on the ground, the latter being the second-best tally of his career.
With his knowledge of the New England offense, Newton is also the most practice solution if the Patriots want to stick around in the immediate AFC playoff conversation. Sure, one could make the same argument for simply moving Hoyer to the front of the depth chart, but even Newton at his de facto worst carries a brand of panache that Hoyer, even at his very best, could never match. If you really wanted to play into cliches, one could argue that there could be no better available mentor for a rookie like Zappe, who could stand to learn a thing or two from a former MVP and Super Bowl contender.
No Thanks, Newton
Look, the NFL world has been waiting for this moment: the ultimate demise of the Patriots, one that might've been coming even with Jones in tow.
If the Patriots are truly going to crash and burn, they need to do so as quietly as possible. Adding someone like Newton, a walking headling for both legitimate and facetious reasons throughout his NFL career, doesn't do any favors to the goal of working through a rebuild as peacefully as possible. That's not always Newton's fault, but he's the type of prescience the Patriots can't afford as they work through a curious period on the franchise timeline.
The Patriots aren't the Panthers: the primary reason Newton was brought back to Charlotte likely stemmed from a franchise's desperation to remind fans of the good times as they work through their own meandering problems, one that refuses to acknowledge the failures of the Matt Rhule era.
In Carolina, Newton was merely a stopgap from one potentially failed franchise quarterback (Sam Darnold) to another (Baker Mayfield). He was a reason to keep the fans invested while they served as de facto rodeo clowns for Tampa Bay's Super Bowl defense, lingering as the equivalent of the original series' star making a cameo in the movie adaptation in exchange for a paycheck (think Bradley Cooper coming face-to-face with Dirk Benedict in "The A-Team"). Should the Patriots really lower themselves to that?
Even if the playoffs fade further from New England's immediate fortunes, there's still a lot to play for this season, particularly on an offense trying to find the right chemistry and consistency. Should the potential breakouts of names like Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker be left to Newton rather than a name they've worked with like Hoyer and Zappe? That wouldn't be fair to any side, not even Newton who would undoubtedly become a scapegoat in the eyes of many if any of the Patriots' young veterans failed to live up to their potential under his watch.
Patriot peace must reign now and later to return to their former state of consistent, weekly glory. Adding Newton to the fold would eliminate any hope of that happening.
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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags