Cam Newton plays for Bill Belichick now, and the possibilities are endless

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COMMENTARY

The attribute most important to Bill Belichick’s enduring brilliance is his infinite curiosity about what will be performed with 11 gamers on a soccer area. Though he’s the oldest coach within the NFL, Belichick additionally has considered one of its most agile, malleable minds. He by no means falls behind tendencies and infrequently units them. His solely constraints are the game’s guidelines and his personnel.

The first hope of any soccer fan needs to be that the state of the nation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic permits for a season. The second needs to be that Cam Newton is wholesome once more, no less than an approximation of the participant he was at his peak. The marriage of Newton and Belichick, which dropped out of the sky Sunday night time, might produce a number of the most fascinating, inventive offense the game has seen.

The Patriots signed Newton to a one-year, incentive-heavy contract — a no-risk, immense-reward deal that offers the Patriots a singular expertise to interchange Tom Brady. The Patriots adore unproven second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham and, from what some aware of the group’s pondering have stated, would have been snug with him taking up. But they might not move on the chance to accumulate Newton at such a low price, and chances are high the remainder of the league will remorse that it allowed it to occur.

Poor well being is the one motive Newton was out there. He received the 2015 MVP award, led the Carolina Panthers to an NFC Championship and have become one of the best participant in franchise historical past. He delivered on the promise he confirmed when the Panthers made him the No. 1 total choose in 2011. He’s nonetheless simply 31. He needs to be a franchise cornerstone, not a late-June bargain-bin discover.

But Newton’s well being has undermined him. He had been remarkably sturdy given his bodily model, however the toll of these hits surfaced in latest seasons. He underwent main shoulder surgical procedure after the 2018 season and performed in simply two video games final season after struggling Lisfranc harm, which required surgical procedure in December.

No matter the place Newton landed, the hope was these operations and practically a yr of relaxation would restore Newton. He is likely one of the most thrilling gamers the league has produced. Now that he’s with the Patriots, he turns into much more fascinating.

Newton opens new pathways for Belichick. There has by no means been a participant precisely like Newton in NFL historical past, a quarterback who blends his arm power, velocity and energy working. There have been loads of quick, explosive athletes who play quarterback, notably among the many fashionable fleet of younger passers taking up the league. Belichick hasn’t coached any of them.

The six Lombardi trophies he received with Brady guarantee Belichick isn’t complaining. But the soccer geek in Belichick certainly watched cellular quarterbacks from Randall Cunningham to Newton to Lamar Jackson and puzzled what sort of devilish plan he might inflict on opposing defenses if he had a quarterback with the same talent set.

The dumbest arguments within the coming days will probably be about how Newton will match into the Patriots’ “system.” Belichick doesn’t have a system. He simply occurred to have the identical quarterback for 20 years, and so the offense he constructed round Brady’s strengths simply appeared the identical for all these years. But the Patriots broke floor with Brady, main the league’s evolution to shotgun-based offense and the primacy of quick, fast passes. They adopted a devastating two-tight finish strategy after drafting Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and even in recent times, earlier than final yr’s irritating season, have stood out for his or her offensive versatility.

But whilst Brady elevated Belichick’s likelihood at success, his lack of working means restricted offensive creativity in a single key space. The subsequent step ahead, creating an offense round Newton’s dual-threat means, is one Belichick hasn’t been capable of take, and it’s way more thrilling to look at than New England’s improvements beneath Brady. The Baltimore Ravens overwhelmed the NFL final season with an offense constructed round Jackson. The advantages of a working quarterback are exceedingly easy, but they open so many alternative potentialities.

“The quarterback being able to move makes it to where the defense has to defend 11 people, not just 10,” Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III stated final yr. “Traditionally in the NFL, they’ve only had to defend 10. So it’s not that defenses don’t know what to do. It’s that whenever they decide to do something, there’s going to be a weakness somewhere that we can exploit that teams that only play with 10 on offense essentially can’t exploit.”

Belichick has raved about Newton previously, with good motive: In their restricted conferences, Belichick might by no means cease him. Newton confronted the Patriots twice, in 2013 and 2017. In these video games, he accomplished 41 of 57 passes for 525 yards, six touchdowns and one interception whereas working for 106 yards and a rating on 15 carries.

“I think when you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks – guys that are tough to handle, can throw, run, make good decisions – I would put him at the top of the list,” Belichick stated within the week main as much as the 2017 assembly. “Not saying there aren’t a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say of all the guys we played recently in the last couple of years, I think he’s the hardest guy to [defend]. He makes good decisions, can run. He’s strong. He’s hard to tackle. . . . He can beat you in a lot of different ways. . . . I’m not saying the other guys aren’t a problem, because they are. But he’s maybe public enemy No. 1.”

Acquiring him was an only-in-2020 alternative. If not for the coronavirus pandemic, it will have been easy for groups to find out Newton’s well being, and if given medical clearance Newton would have presumably been a scorching commodity in free company, or in a commerce earlier than Carolina launched him. With the challenges of administering a bodily in the course of the pandemic, groups might solely guess. The incontrovertible fact that Carolina was prepared to maneuver on most likely gave pause. But if he’s wholesome, the Patriots simply moved on from Brady by changing him with one other elite quarterback.

Belichick’s profession affords a small trace at what he would possibly concoct. During Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension on the outset of the 2016 season, the Patriots turned to third-string rookie Jacoby Brissett. The quarterback entice Brissett used for a 27-yard landing scamper was a play beforehand resigned to dustbins and highschool fields.

That’s to not say Belichick will use that specific play. It’s that with a quarterback of Newton’s abilities, the Patriots’ offense could include designs borrowed, after which up to date, from any period. “Probably the story of his career, from my vantage point, would be his attitude toward learning,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, a Belichick confidante, as soon as stated.

Belichick is aware of extra soccer obscurity than anybody on the planet. The arrival of Newton in New England means we’ll most likely see a few of it on an NFL area, and that could be a risk value hoping for.