Cam Newton, A Future Backup QB

A league MVP with superstar appeal, the face of NFL aspirations. That’s more or less how Cam Newton was described walking into Super Bowl 50. Five years later, he’s among the NFL’s worst starting QBs, and now the word “starting” is likely gone, never to return. 

Last night, Newton was benched for Jarrett Stidham. Their season is over, and the Patriots need to find out if Stidham has a future with the team because Newton does not. 

This offseason, teams showed Newton little-to-no interest outside of his last-minute signing with the Patriots. New England took a chance. It didn’t work. Rumors are now swirling that the Patriots could bring back Jimmy Garoppolo via trade. Whether it’s Garoppolo or a draft pick, Newton isn’t Bill Belichick’s answer.

So, where might Newton be the answer? As a starter, probably nowhere. 

The list of teams with worse starting QBs than Newton is small, especially since two such teams, the Jets and Jags, are expected to draft QBs Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.

Washington is likely to draft a QB in the first round and has Alex Smith, who is a more effective veteran bridge QB than Newton.

Similarly, if Indianapolis isn’t starting a QB of the future next season, Philip Rivers is still a better bridge option than Newton.

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Chicago is the only team with which Newton could sign and walk in as the best QB option. However, the Bears didn’t have an interest in him a year ago and can’t stomach another low-ceiling QB. Chicago needs to blow its whole offense up. Newton isn’t a fit there, either.

What’s more, the expectation is that teams with low-end starters will have trade options. Assuming the Jets take Lawrence or Fields, Sam Darnold, at just 23, is a valuable trade chip. With the right team and coach, Darnold can save his career a la Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee.

Furthermore, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay predict the Lions will move on from Matt Stafford, who would then have a competitive market. 

In our latest OutKick poll, we asked fans if Newton’s days as a full-time starter were over. 84% of voters say yes.

Few teams will even have an interest in Newton as a backup. First, he would have to accept a backup role. Second, celebrity backups are hard sells, often more distracting than helpful.

Above all, Newton doesn’t work in most systems. He needs a run-first offense with a lot of quick receivers. 

Perhaps Newton’s future isn’t as a backup with a chance to win the job, but instead as a backup in case of injury. While Newton wouldn’t like it, replacing Robert Griffin III as Lamar Jackson’s backup is where he fits best.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

3 Comments

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  1. All the teamspeak coming out of New England has been “Cam is the hardest working guy, first in, last out, blah blah blah…” But the truth is he’s never put in the grueling mental preparation that great NFL QB’s put in. The great ones put in hundreds of hours of film study during the season, and perhaps most importantly, thousands of hours of study in the offseason. That’s how you learn to read defenses.

    Being the best athlete on the field does not make you the best QB at the NFL level. Cam has never figured that out, and never will at this point.

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