Cam Newton shouldered the unenviable task of immediately walking in the shadow of six-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady, and two games into the regular season, it’s become clear Newton is the better fit for this version of the Patriots, and maybe Bill Belichick knew that all along.
Newton’s camaraderie with his teammates and commitment to encouraging and showing faith in the young talent around him is in stark contrast to the behavior we saw from Brady during his final year in New England. Frequently frustrated with the inexperienced talent around him on offense, Brady was visibly upset and vocal about his displeasure throughout the 2019 season.
Fast forward nine months and Brady’s replacement, a ten-year NFL vet and one-time NFL MVP, has injected life, confidence and energy into an inexperienced receiving corps. There are holes in Newton’s resume and he’ll never reach Brady’s GOAT status, but for the 2020 Patriots, he’s the right guy under center.
When asked during his weekly radio interview on WEEI Tuesday morning if the team needed a boost at receiver, Newton responded, ""Man, I’ll say this, the answers are in that locker room. Simple and plain," Newton said. “We got Little Butt, Doughboy, Highway 11 and MyGerms. We good to go. Let me rewind that. We have Damiere Byrd, N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman and Jakobi Meyers.”
That willingness to embrace the talent around him and continually boost the confidence of his younger teammates has made a difference in the locker room.
“I won’t limit it to just the younger guys,” said Jason McCourty. “I think he’s done a really good job of getting in here and getting to know guys and I think a lot of it is just him being himself. When you get here and you are yourself, it comes across as being genuine and people respect that. It’s charismatic and people want to be around that.”
It’s unlikely Brady’s attitude regarding the young receivers would have changed this season and the Patriots would have been paying him close to $25 million at age 43. This is not to say the future Hall-of-Famer won’t be successful in Tampa Bay, but maybe the change of scene and turnover in the Foxboro quarterback room was good for everybody involved – Brady, Belichick, Newton and the Pats young receivers.
N’Keal Harry, the second-year wideout, struggled in his rookie season, frequently frustrating Brady. On Sunday in Seattle, Harry was a key part of the Patriots offensive attack. Newton continually targeted Harry on the game’s final drive, which ended up two yards shy of a game-winning touchdown.
“When it comes to wanting me to succeed, in that regard, I think Tom wanted me to succeed just as much,” said Harry. “It’s hard trying to compare. As a rookie it was a lot harder for me to grasp the offense, missing half of the season and then just getting thrown in there like that. It is helpful having Cam guiding me along with everything that’s going on.”
Damiere Byrd, who was a rookie in Carolina when Newton won the MVP award and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, stressed how the quarterback is consistent day after day.
“Cam hasn’t changed since the day I met him,” said Byrd. “Accepting to every person on the team. You can get a glimpse of that with all the nicknames for everyone here. He’s in tune with his teammates and trying to get better. That definitely helps younger players coming in and finding their way.”
“He’s a fun guy to be around,” said Jason McCourty. “He makes the game fun. He’s encouraging and he’s always positive and he’s always full of energy. For the guys around him on offense, he’s a guy you want to go out there and you want to compete for and you want to go out there and have success.”
Is Cam Newton better than Tom Brady? That’s not the question we’re answering here. Is he the better fit right now? Yes.
Cox Media Group