BOSTON (CBS) — The dust is still settling from Cam Newton signing with the Patriots, and some are still wondering how the 2015 MVP ended up in Bill Belichick’s hands. It’s a move that has little risk for the Patriots, but one that could have a big payoff for both sides.
Newton’s quarterback coach, George Whitfield Jr., is among those still shaking his head at Newton’s — and New England’s — new reality.
“You go from Brady to Cam,” Whitfield told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton on Sunday night’s Sports Final. “My God, Boston. Unbelievable.”
Newton and Whitfield Jr. have been working together since 2011 when Newton was preparing to start his NFL career. Following a nine-year run as the face of the Carolina Panthers franchise, including a trip to Super Bowl 50, Newton found himself in the NFL’s bargain bin this offseason, seen as damaged goods following a handful of injury plagued seasons. It eventually led to his marriage with the Patriots, putting Newton back in the spotlight and New England back in the conversation as a potential contender.
While the ridiculous highlights have been a constant for Newton throughout his career, questions about his grit and desire have followed him. But all Whitfield sees when he looks at Newton is a winner.
“Everything about Cam is about winning and success. Don’t get lost on what he shows up to the podium in or the social media stuff. Just take a look at the man,” said Whitfield, who noted that Newton won at the Junior College level before transferring to Auburn and leading the Tigers to an undefeated season.
“The fact that he would sign with the Patriots tells you the priority in which he made the decision. It wasn’t for financial reasons,” he said, with Newton agreeing to a one-year deal that is heavily incentivized. “It was about making a statement, joining a winning franchise, and playing for an iconic coach.”
Whitfield believes Newton can contribute to winning right away in New England, especially with the leadership of Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“Josh is creative, resourceful and great at getting the best out of people. And he always does his due diligence. Coach Belichick is going to support you and put you in those positions. He’s always had that ability to train everyone’s focus at the task at hand,” he said. “Cam has been starving for that, and I can’t believe this marriage has come to be. I’m excited.”
He doesn’t believe Newton will have issues learning whatever system Belichick and McDaniels put in place around him.
“He has that dual ability where he’s smart and also a grinder,” Whitfield said. “[Panthers offensive coordinator Rob] Chudzinski, that was a complex system [from 2011-12]. People get lost because some of those nuances. Yes, he’s going to tuck the ball and go for a 60-yard trot through the park. Then he had to acclimate to what Norv Turner was doing. That’s a complex system; that’s what Troy Aikman and the Cowboys thrived on. This guy has been winning from the pocket; he just happens to have one of the biggest parachute that God has ever put on a quarterback. So if he decides to come out of the pocket, that steals all the headlines.”
As for coming into New England to replace Tom Brady, Whitfield doesn’t believe Newton will feel that pressure, not even with Brady’s six Super Bowl banners casting a mighty big shadow at Gillette Stadium.
“I don’t even think he thinks about that,” he said of filling Brady’s shoes. “I know he respects Brady … Everybody respects and reveres Tom Brady. Now, the task is at hand. It’ll be about the men in that building and the task at hand.
“Besides,” Whitfield joked, “his feet are bigger than Brady anyways.”