Cam Newton seemed like a safe choice to start for the New England Patriots in 2021. Yes, the team used a first-round pick on Mac Jones, but it seemed to make sense that Bill Belichick would stay patient with his young signal-caller. Instead, he shocked the world by cutting Newton and starting Jones right away.
That paid off as the rookie led the Patriots to the postseason, while Newton ended his year with a losing streak as a member of the Carolina Panthers. That had New England fans feeling like their head coach had, once again, looked into the future and made the right choice.
But things hit a snag Sunday as Jones suffered what appeared to be a nasty high ankle sprain. The injury could have him out several weeks, leaving Brian Hoyer as the starter in his stead. However, could the team go back to Newton as a viable option until Jones can return?
Newton ended the 2021 season with a whimper
Such a concept may unfortunately be nothing more than wishful thinking for the veteran quarterback and his supporters. The former NFL MVP went to Carolina last season and received a hero's welcome upon his return. But then he struggled mightily, going 0-5 as a starter and entering a rotation with P.J. Walker as neither stood out as a good choice.
The veteran did rush for five touchdowns in eight games, but only added four through the air and completed just around 55 percent of his passes. He looked like a shell of his former self, and the team opted to ride with Baker Mayfield in 2022.
The decline in play is the first factor as to why the Patriots should not even consider their 2020 starter. Add in the fact that Josh McDaniels is gone, and it would be hard to imagine Matt Patricia getting the quarterback to return to his prior greatness. The genius offensive mind is gone, meaning special schemes to protect Newton would be hard to come by.
There is a tendency for fans to remember who a player once was great and automatically assume they will be at that level forever. And it is fair to point out how the former No. 1 pick is still only 33 years old. For someone like Tom Brady, that is only the midway point of a career. But he is an anomaly and not everyone has had the lack of injury luck the GOAT has had.
For Newton, he has dealt with a series of injuries. It was clear last season that he lost some touch as a passer. He is slowing down at a time when the game is speeding up, relegating him to the free agent pool, instead of being a surefire starting quarterback.
The Patriots don't want to fall too far in the standings, especially with the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills in their own division. While other answers may be out there, bringing Newton back would not serve as an upgrade over someone like Hoyer, who knows the system and won't require a major change to the offense.