By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Any way you break it down, Cam Newton’s numbers as a passer in 2020 are flat-out ugly.
The 10-year veteran ranks 23rd in passing yards, 28th in passer rating (among 32 qualified QBs), and 35th in passing touchdowns. His nine interceptions are also tied for seventh-most in the league.
The one consistent part of Newton’s performance this year has come in his inconsistency. He has as many games (3) with a 51.6 passer rating or worse as he does games with a 100.0 rating or better. And his most recent output — a 9-for-18, 84-yard, 2-INT, 23.6 passer rating performance vs. the Cardinals — was his worst of the year.
Given those ups and downs, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked directly on Tuesday if he still has full faith and confidence in Newton’s capabilities as the starting quarterback of the Patriots.
“Absolutely,” McDaniels said.
Noting that a functional passing game depends on blocking, route running, coverage reads, and good coaching, McDaniels put part of the blame for the up-and-down performances on his own shoulders.
“Well the passing game is a function of a lot of people doing things right. I know the quarterback is the centerpiece of throwing the football, but you don’t throw the ball well without everybody doing their job right and without putting the players in a position to be successful,” McDaniels said. “So I just start with me and, I’ve just gotta try to put the guys in a position where they can go out there and do something, be aggressive, run good routes, understand what the coverage is and give the quarterback opportunities to find guys and throw the football and throw and catch it.”
McDaniels added: “Passing the football well has never been one man’s job, and it will never be that way.”
That is, of course, true. James White admitted that he made the wrong read in blitz pickup on Sunday, leading directly to Newton’s first interception. And the thin talent pool at wide receiver and tight end has certainly hamstrung the passing game incalculably.
Still, Newton has run hot and cold on his own. He was deadly efficient in the Patriots’ wins over Baltimore and Miami, and he looked like his MVP self in the loss in Seattle. Yet against the Broncos, 49ers, and Cardinals, he threw for 339 total yards, with a grisly 37.1 passer rating.
While the in-game performances have clearly varied, McDaniels credited Newton for being consistent with his approach every day at practice and in meeting rooms.
“Cam’s pretty consistent. I think he’s also matured and understands that his process each week is the same, and he works extremely hard to put himself in position to be prepared to play the best he can play. … He’s a very good listener, as I’ve documented before. He listens to coaching very well, he takes great notes, he tries to work on the areas of the game that we’ve addressed and tried to point out that we can make progress and improve on,” McDaniels said. “He’s pretty consistent as a human being. I think that’s part of what makes him a good leader. He comes into the building every day, he’s got a positive outlook and positive frame of mind. He’s got good energy. And he’s been through these before. He’s had a day that’s been great and then he’s had a day that’s been less than what he was looking for, and he’s been able to bounce back from those and continue to surge forward and try to continue to play good football and help us win.”
With Newton saying Sunday that he prefers an ugly win to a pretty loss, McDaniels reiterated that point, too.
“The best part about Cam Newton is that the only statistic he cares about is the one in the win column,” McDaniels said. “So we gotta try to make improvements where we can, and we will. And I know he’ll work extremely hard to do that. But part of being a good leader and a good teammate is you’ve gotta try to find a consistency with your approach, and he does a really good job of bringing that every day for his teammates.”