The primary hope of any soccer fan must be that the state of the nation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic permits for a season. The second must be that Cam Newton is wholesome once more, at the least an approximation of the participant he was at his peak. The wedding of Newton and Belichick, which dropped out of the sky Sunday evening, might produce a few 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 provides the Patriots a singular expertise to interchange Tom Brady. The Patriots adore unproven second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham and, from what some conversant in the crew’s considering have mentioned, would have been comfy with him taking up. However they may not go on the chance to amass Newton at such a low price, and likelihood is the remainder of the league will remorse permitting it to occur.
Poor well being is the one purpose Newton was accessible. He gained the 2015 MVP award, led the Carolina Panthers to an NFC championship and have become the very best participant in franchise historical past. He delivered on the promise he confirmed when the Panthers made him the No. 1 general choose in 2011. He’s nonetheless simply 31. He must be a franchise cornerstone, not a late-June bargain-bin discover.
However Newton’s well being has undermined him. He had been remarkably sturdy given his bodily type, however the toll of these hits surfaced in current seasons. He underwent main shoulder surgical procedure after the 2018 season and performed in simply two video games final season after struggling a Lisfranc harm, which required surgical procedure in December.
Irrespective of the place Newton landed, the hope was these operations and almost a 12 months 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 arm power, pace 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 gained with Brady guarantee Belichick is just not complaining. However the soccer geek in Belichick certainly watched cell quarterbacks from Randall Cunningham to Newton to Lamar Jackson and questioned what sort of devilish plan he might inflict on opposing defenses if he had a quarterback with the same ability 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, so the offense he constructed round Brady’s strengths seemed the identical for all these years. However the Patriots broke floor with Brady, main the league’s evolution to shotgun-based offense and the primacy of brief, fast passes. They adopted a devastating two-tight-end strategy after drafting Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and even lately, earlier than final 12 months’s irritating season, have stood out for his or her offensive versatility.
However at the same time as Brady elevated Belichick’s probability 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 in a position to take, and will probably be much more thrilling to observe 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 prospects.
“The quarterback having the ability to transfer makes it to the place the protection has to defend 11 folks, not simply 10,” Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III mentioned final 12 months. “Historically within the NFL, they’ve solely needed to defend 10. So it’s not that defenses don’t know what to do. It’s that every time they resolve to do one thing, there’s going to be a weak spot someplace that we are able to exploit that groups that solely play with 10 on offense basically can’t exploit.”
Belichick has raved about Newton prior to now, with good purpose: Of 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 feel once you’re speaking about cell quarterbacks — guys which might be powerful to deal with, can throw, run, make good selections — I might put him on the high of the checklist,” Belichick mentioned within the week main as much as the 2017 assembly. “Not saying there aren’t lots of different good gamers that try this, however I might say of all the blokes we performed lately within the final couple of years, I feel he’s the toughest man to [defend]. He makes good selections, can run. He’s robust. He’s onerous to deal with. … He can beat you in lots of other ways. … I’m not saying the opposite guys aren’t an issue, as a result of they’re. However he’s perhaps public enemy No. 1.”
Buying him was an only-in-2020 alternative. If not for the coronavirus pandemic, it could have been easy for groups to find out Newton’s well being, and if given medical clearance, Newton presumably would have been a sizzling commodity in free company or on the commerce market earlier than Carolina launched him. With the challenges of administering a bodily through the pandemic, groups solely might guess. The truth that Carolina was prepared to maneuver on most likely gave pause. But when he’s wholesome, the Patriots simply moved on from Brady by changing him with one other elite quarterback.
Belichick’s profession gives a small trace at what he would possibly concoct. Throughout Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension on the outset of the 2016 season, the Patriots turned to third-string rookie Jacoby Brissett. The quarterback trap 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 exact play. It’s that with a quarterback of Newton’s skills, the Patriots’ offense could include designs borrowed from any period, then up to date. “In all probability the story of his profession, from my vantage level, can be his angle towards studying,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, a Belichick confidant, as soon as mentioned.
Belichick is aware of extra soccer obscurity than anybody on the planet. The arrival of Newton in New England means we most likely will see a few of it on an NFL discipline, and that could be a risk price hoping for.