Cam Newton is reportedly a Patriot.
What better way to replace a departing early-40s former NFL MVP starter than with an early-30s former NFL MVP starter?
Tom Brady’s out and Cam Newton is in.
Print the jerseys. Sell the tickets. Hype the games.
Except for one simple problem. All offseason, every time Bill Belichick and New England passed on the opportunity to add a talented passer, it was interpreted as a sign of confidence, an investment of faith in second-year former fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham.
No interest in Andy Dalton?
Because Stidham is obviously better than that former Bengals bum!
Trading out of the No. 23 overall pick in the first round, watching a few slots later as Green Bay gobbled up highly-hyped quarterback prospect Jordan Love to become the heir to their own Hall of Fame passer?
Because Stidham is better.
Has more upside. Better value. Really probably shoulda and coulda been a first-round pick himself!
The narrative was well-told, oft-told and over-told, including on this very website. Many, many times.
It was a simple plan. The focus for the new season was on figuring out if – nay, proving that – Stidham was the future of the quarterback position in Foxborough.
So, now that Newton is on his way to New England with training camp just one month away, how can it be read any other way than Belichick and the Patriots aren’t exactly all-in on the Jarrett Stidham era?
Maybe Stidham isn’t quite the Stud that so many wanted us to believe.
Maybe Stid the Kid is mostly just an unproven kid, a guy with 15 NFL snaps, four passes and one Pick-6 to his NFL resume.
Maybe Belichick didn’t really have much of a plan at the post-Brady quarterback position after all.
Newton may not be quite the same guy that led the Panthers to a 15-win season and a berth in the Super Bowl in 2015.
The four years since have not been all that good to him. Wins became fewer. Injuries – including shoulder and foot ailments – became more frequent.
The wear and tear of carrying Carolina on his back became quite clear.
Still, when guy with the Superman TD celebration and snazzy postgame getups struts into Gillette Stadium he brings a certain cache with him. He’s the former No. 1 overall pick. He’s the former MVP.
For as long as he’s played the game and the QB position, he’s essentially been Da Man.
Belichick knows that. And brought him in anyway.
Newton’s new Patriots teammates know that.
Stidham has to know that.
Suddenly the New England starting quarterback job – Brady’s throne – isn’t exactly lined up as Stidham’s to lose.
No longer does he simply have to beat out Brian Hoyer for the second straight summer to get his shot leading the defending AFC East champs come opening day 2020 against the Dolphins.
Nope, the last three-plus months of everything pointing to Stidham being tabbed as TB12’s replacement disintegrated into meaningless online columns and on-air sports radio chatter.
That confidence that was perceived through the lack of signings, trades or draft picks dissipated with one simple inking of a former NFL superstar.
Maybe Stidham is still the future in New England.
Maybe the aging, banged-up Newton is merely battling Hoyer for the backup job.
Maybe the former MVP was simply too good a value to pass up at this point and is just going to be thrown on the field to compete for whatever playing time or role he can garner.
Or, maybe Stidham isn’t as good as everyone tried to sell us on.
Maybe all that talk of Stidham being a first-round talent and the next Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson or Tony Romo was just that…talk.
One thing’s certain, training camp and preseason action in New England just got a lot more interesting.