By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Cam Newton did everything right in his six-month stint with the New England Patriots. Except succeed.
He said all the right things. He brought a proper level of focus. He did his best to ingratiate himself with his new teammates. He never once complained about a single thing, despite working in an objectively undermanned offense. He absorbed a significant amount of physical punishment and carried the offense on the ground when needed. He brought a certain amount of life and energy to a team that desperately needed that type of leader.
Alas, he didn’t throw the football very well. Stats only tell a part of any story, but no matter which way you slice it, 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions is simply not conducive to team success in the modern NFL.
And so, it will not be surprising at all if the Patriots end up following Adam Schefter’s
report “larger discussion” and break up with Cam after just one year. Cam was not solely to blame, but the Patriots’ offense did fall from 15th in yards last year to 27th in yards this year. Some major changes are needed, and while Newton’s threat as a runner is undeniable, the Patriots will likely look for a more efficient passer for 2021 and beyond.
For those who got excited by the Cam Photoshops in the summer, or the “ticked off dog” comments, or the promise of the season’s opening weeks, that’s most certainly a disappointment but an unpleasant reality.
So, if Sunday afternoon did mark Newton’s final game in New England, at least it was a party.
Newton was dynamite in every aspect of the game. Sure, he had a few misfires, but he still completed 70 percent of his passes (21-for-30) for 242 yards. In what is the most jaw-dropping tidbit, Newton threw more than one touchdown in a game for the first time all season and for the first time since Week 13 of the 2018 season. Newton threw for three touchdowns in this one, and he ran for 79 yards on 11 carries, setting a Patriots franchise record for longest run by a QB with a 49-yard run through the middle of the Jets’ defense on the game’s opening drive.
He got eight different receivers involved, got Devin Asiasi his first career catch and firsts career touchdown, got Sony Michel his first NFL receiving touchdown, continued Jakobi Meyers’ development as a dependable NFL receiver, and seemingly just for good measure, he caught a touchdown. Because why not?
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 3, 2021
Cam did it all, and he had a good time doing it. While it likely won’t be enough to give him a second chance in New England, it is at least some solid tape for Newton to put out to the rest of the NFL as teams consider the intrigue of a quarterback who still offers plenty and might just need a better situation.
In a cutthroat, bottom-line business like the NFL, sometimes a positive for one person who worked hard and tried his best is a moment worth celebrating.
Yeah? Yeah. OK. Leftover thoughts from a 28-14 Patriots win over the Jets.
–With the season over, we know now what Cam Newton officially got paid by the Patriots. He had the $1.05 million base salary, and he added $656,250 in per-game roster bonuses, and he earned $2 million in playing at least 80 percent of the snaps. Some quick work on the abacus here and … we’ve got a $3.7 million payday. (Well, $3.7 million, plus $6,250, to be exact.)
In terms of missed incentives, Newton missed out on $250,000 in playing time incentives by coming in at under 90 percent of the offensive snaps. He would have made an extra $1 million if the team made the playoffs, and he would have made $500,000 apiece for a Pro Bowl or All-Pro spot. He could have made $250,000 for each playoff win in which he played at least half the snaps, too.
–If we’re evaluating quarterbacks for the Patriots’ future, what do you make of Sam Darnold? He was … pretty Jetsy. Which is to say … not great.
He’s really an impossible guy to evaluate. He’s got plenty of physical tools, and he’s made some ballsy throws in his three-year career. But he’s also been on an awful team with an awful head coach and no leadership from top to bottom. Is he ruined, or can he be saved?
That’s a tough question to answer. But somebody will have to in the coming weeks and months.
–Some weird moments in this game. Real weird. Like … what do we call this?
It looked like the offensive line was setting up for a tight end screen to Dalton Keene. Jakobi Meyers was looking into the backfield the entire time as he drifted up the field. Newton threw the ball as if Meyers was going to run a quick stop route. Just a mess of an operation.
It’s probably harsh to say, but that short clip does feel like the perfect picture of the 2020 Patriots offense. Just … not … working quite the way it should.
–Hey maybe this isn’t important but the broadcast showed this one clip and I said, “Whoa! Boy howdy! J.J. Taylor is short!”
I don’t know if this is exclusively a New England thing, but New England sports fans do love a short sports star. Cult heroes like Isaiah Thomas, Dion Lewis, Danny Woodhead, Nate Robinson. Even bona fide superstars like Mookie Betts, Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, Dustin Pedroia and Julian Edelman. Boston loves short guys.
Taylor showed some good promise in very limited action this year. If James White departs as a free agent, or if the team moves on from Sony Michel, or an injury befalls Michel or Damien Harris next year, Taylor looks capable. He finished his year as a rookie free agent with 110 rushing yards on 23 carries.
–If you’re hunting for positives after the worst season of football in Foxboro since 2000, you could …
… point out that this was a nice little touchdown catch by Devin Asiasi.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 3, 2021
The rookie obviously had a tough first year. A play like that in the final quarter of the season probably helps build a little momentum for the work that is necessary in the upcoming offseason.
You had J.C. Jackson record nine interceptions, second-most in the entire NFL. Kyle Dugger was a solid, hard-hitting safety, and he was certainly better than most people expected as they Googled “what is Lenoir-Rhyne?” on draft night. Together with Adrian Phillips, Dugger can help ease the pain if Patrick Chung decides to opt out for good.
Mike Onwenu was a tremendous find in the sixth round, and he now gives Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio flexibility with regard to usage at either a guard or tackle spot. (That’s assuming Caserio remains in New England, which is a story for another day.) With Joe Thuney due for a huge payday, that’s significant.
Chase Winovich established what he’s good at in his second year, recording 5.5 sacks. Carving out a specified role for him should be easier for Belichick and Co. for 2021 and beyond.
Gunner Olszewksi took major steps forward as a punt returner, setting a franchise record for punt return average. And the punter, one Mister Jake Bailey, is phenomenal at punting footballs.
So there are some positive glimmers for a team that went 7-9 and hopes to climb closer to 11-5 than to 3-11 next season. The negatives have been covered pretty well, and they’ll continue to be the focus for the upcoming offseason. So we’re just giving a quick glance at some positives that indicate the Patriots won’t be starting from scratch in their rebuild.
–Plus, there’s the greatest positive of all: AT LEAST THEY’RE NOT THE NEW YORK JETS.
See you next year.