“Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”
-- Bill Munny, Unforgiven
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
We were told it would be different, and likely painful. That someone else would be here to lead the way and attempt to fill the immeasurable void.
The journey back from greatness would be long, the road quite bumpy, the destination unknown, though likely not Boylston via duckboat. As fans we’d had our days of pro sports glory, but time had run out.
Boston, a city awash in good sports fortune since the year 2000 (29 conference title appearances!) would see it’s football team, the New England Patriots, part ways with The GOAT, and by all accounts allow an unproven second year QB to take over. Irrelevance would likely follow. America would rejoice.
Stepping in for a departed legend is a near impossible task. Failure was likely the only option.
Oh well. We had a good run. Epic, really. But nothing lasts forever, right?
Except the Patriots did have a plan, those sneaky bastards! They had one alright. It just took a while for it to come together.
“I love it when a plan comes together.”
-- John “Hannibal” Smith, The A-Team
In just months after The Great Stidham Smokescreen of 2020 the Patriots went from one larger than life winner to another. And, quite frankly, after all that winning, all that celebrating, and the arrogance and entitlement that arose from it, this just doesn’t seem right.
I’m here to offer an apology to fans from competing cities. Because we don’t deserve Cam Newton.
We deserve a break. We deserve to return to the bottom, or at least somewhere near it. We’ve been on top for far too long. How could Belichick have a plan like this up his sleeves when he cuts them off in the first place! For months that no good rule bender and master manipulator convinced us Jarrett Stidham was the future, only to wait out and sign a healthy Cam Newton at a discount price. Unbelievable! Why it’s downright offensive if you ask me, convincing his loyal fans, mass media and detractors this was the way. There ought to be a rule against it. And if there were I’m sure Belichick would try and find a way around it.
What team loses a transcendent figure like Tom Brady and instead of having to groom his successor, and deal with all the frustrations therein, gets a motivated multi-talented former MVP who can step right in, inject the franchise with his signature energy, give the team a new identity, and hope, almost immediately? It’s unprecedented and frankly infuriating. Where are the growing pains? Where’s the arduous rebuild? Where are the critics calling for the coach’s head? I feel terrible for all the other fans who were counting on the Patriots struggling, who were looking forward to The Dark Ages following Brady’s exit, who went to bed at night praying that Bill Belichick fail miserably with his post-Brady plans, his team choking on a metaphorical Subway foot long. A protracted handoff of relevance and excellence to another world class QB, under the radar, at nearly no cost? There’s just no way it’s possible, no matter how much of a genius Belichick is.
-- Vizzini, The Princess Bride
And who exactly does this Cam Newton think he is? Rule is you never want to be The Guy who follows The Man. You want to be The Guy who follows The Guy who follows The Man. The Guy who follows the Man is supposed to be a patsy, a fall guy, someone to take the slings and arrows and snaps of a franchise under renovation. Sure, there have been the exceptions to the QB succession rule. Like the Colts Luck-ing their way into a Pro Bowl starter following Peyton’s run in Indy, but that also involved a tank season of Orlovsky-ian and Painter-esque proportions. Aaron Rodgers taking the reins from Brett Favre, or Young displacing Montana, but those were well-orchestrated grooming processes years in the making. It’s supposed to be more like the clunkfests of Moon to Carlson, Elway to Griese, and Jimmy Kelly to Todd Collins (pride of Walpole). If anything, had Jimmy G been the heir apparent to Brady, which he was, until he wasn’t, we’d have said, “Makes sense, saw this coming.” Instead Brady outplays all expectations, Jimmy G gets told to go west, and a few years later the Pats let Brady take his talents to Tompa Bay, and are left with no real next QB plan. Just enough championship memories to last any three fanbases a lifetime.
And then Cam Newton happened. And in just a matter of months he’s transformed the offense, invigorated the fanbase, charmed the media and replaced a legend seamlessly. His interviews have been engaging with quotes aplenty and words of inspiration that flow as freely from his perfect smile as the ball does from his surgically repaired shoulder. His teammates, who he has affectionate nicknames for just love him, citing his boundless energy as catalyst for extra effort at all hours. And just what is about him honoring a deceased actor after his first touchdown with the Pats, then insisting his center, who missed last season with a serious illness, spike the football after Newton’s second? He’s given everyone in New England and national media more than enough to talk about. And it’s only mid-September. I’d want to snatch the chain right off his neck, too! Why if I were you I’d be burning yellow with rage!
Other teams spend decades trying to find even a serviceable QB, or at least someone who the franchise can trust for longer than a calendar year (Hi, Cleveland!), who the fans can call theirs and the media can engage. Other teams had plans to take over the division this season, or at least finally put their franchise car that’s been double-parked by the side of the postseason road for years into the Patriots playoff space.
Someone ought to launch an investigation. Draft picks need to be taken.
Sure, it’s early. Just a game into Newton’s possibly lone season as the Pats starter. There’s a full season of hits and heartbreak, tackles and touchdowns, fumbles and frustration, interceptions and inspiration, to come. The relationship between Belichick and Newton, albeit a “match made in Heaven” thus far, could go south in a moment’s notice. Stranger things have happened.
Again, it’s not supposed to work like this. But stop me if you’ve heard this before, but IT IS WHAT IT IS. And it is off to a remarkable start.
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
-- Rick Blaine, Casablanca
Oh, and the Celtics are in the Conference Finals for the third time in four years? The rich getting richer in Entitled Town. Reparations might need to be made.
In the end it was one Auburn QB for another. One unproven, one undaunted. A true slight of hand by Belichick. Years from now other football minds and fans may study our coach’s purported succession plan and know it as “Stidham’s Folly” so they know better. Not that it will bring much solace to those scorned by the Patriots of today. For this should be a season of mourning. instead we’re in socially distanced celebration. After these past twenty years we don’t deserve it. Not Cam Newton. Not the possibilities. Not the joy. Not one bit of it.
Our sincerest apologies to all who may be offended.