By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — All too often, we get caught up in a binary world.
Without getting too philosophical here in a football story after a late-September football game between the Patriots and Raiders, it’s a trap we all fall into at various points of our lives. It’s either this or that. Black or white. A right way and a wrong way.
Of course, almost nothing in life actually matches up with such a narrow viewpoint. Life is too complicated to store everything into one of two neat and tidy boxes.
If you’re wondering where this is going, so am I.
But as it relates to the matter at hand, we’re talking about the leadership style of one Mr. Cam Newton, a quarterback who’s been better than even the more optimistic prognosticators could have expected through the first three games of the season.
Considering Newton is following in the footsteps of Tom Brady — aka the greatest quarterback of all time who carried the franchise to unrivaled heights for two decades but sort of kind of looked to be mentally fried by the end of his time working for Bill Belichick in Foxboro — there will be constant comparisons made between the two quarterbacks all year long. Such is the natural way of things.
Yet it is in a brief comparison made by Julian Edelman about the two leadership styles of the two starting NFL quarterbacks he’s worked with in his career that a unique element of Newton’s natural personality emerged, something that suggests that at this particular moment, in the strangest year of all of our lives and in an unprecedented position for the football team … Cam Newton may indeed be the best thing this Patriots team could possibly have.
“I mean, he … he’s a very energetic guy,” Edelman said of his quarterback. “He leads in a different way than I’ve … you know, I’ve been … everyone leads in their own way. And it’s been awesome to see another way. And Cam’s been awesome at getting guys and getting the energy up. Especially without having fans, you know? It’s a different — it’s just so different out there without the crowd and the noise. But I’ll tell you right now, number one, he brings that energy, he brings that confidence, that swag, and it trickles off to everyone in the huddle.”
Sunday was not as productive a day for Edelman as was the previous weekend, when he set a single-game career high in receiving yards. That performance came in a loss, though, while Sunday’s more muted production came in a 16-point victory.
But listening to Edelman and Newton and really everybody else involved with the operation in Foxboro, it becomes clear that the stats only shed light on a very small portion of what’s taking place within those walls. Without taking anything away from Brady’s contributions over 20 years, the injection of life from Newton seems to genuinely have become a much-needed shot in the arm for the offense and the team as a whole.
Newton spoke after the 36-20 victory as well. He spoke glowingly about the way that N’Keal Harry is growing every single game. He spoke about how much he learned about the way business is done in Foxboro after seeing how everyone responded to last week’s loss. He celebrated Rex Burkhead and the offensive line, which adapted quickly to losing captain David Andrews. He shared how Edelman and Josh McDaniels challenged him to be great in the fourth quarter, while letting his on-field performance speak give the answer.
He spoke at times in cliche — “You’re backed with guys who play for each other, play for the common goal, and that’s what it’s all about” — sure, but his very visible attitude since day one in New England shows that he really means it.
Of course, us being us (or we being we?), we’re certain to continue to compare Tom and Cam from now until their respective tenures in their current homes come to an end. Sometimes it will be sensible; most times it will be foolish, because the 2020 Patriots aren’t really about that comparison at all. Neither is Brady’s 20-year career in Foxboro something which can now be diminished after the fact.
While we all may get caught up in focusing on who’s not in Foxboro any longer, the Patriots are ecstatic with who they do have. And considering the avalanche of factors that led to the Patriots’ roster being what it was in late June, and given the variety of circumstances that led to Cam Newton being available for so little at the end of June, it’s entirely fair to state simply that both parties could not be any happier right now, at this time, in this unique moment in NFL history.