The New England Patriots‘ head coach Bill Belichick was asked if he would bench Cam Newton in favor of Jarrett Stidham after the team eeked out a 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Belichick praised Newton’s performance in Week 11 but didn’t sound as definitive in his support of the 2015 NFL MVP as he did in his response to the same question a few weeks ago. Is Belichick making a move to Stidham?
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Belichick: “He Threw for 350 Last Week”
During the post-game, Belichick was asked if he was going to stick with Newton as his starter. Here’s what he said:
Bill Belichick on if he’d consider benching Cam Newton for Jarrett Stidham:
“We’re just going to keep working to get better. He threw for 350 last week, so the most important thing is we made the plays we need to make to win, and that’s what the goal will be every week.” pic.twitter.com/Rgns9Q2PhW
— Binge Sports (@BingeSports) November 30, 2020
If we examine this response, it’s hard to determine if Belichick was hinting at a change, offering his full support to Newton, or being non-committal until he’s ready to make a decision.
The worrisome aspect of this for Cam and his fans is that Belichick was asked the same question a few weeks ago, and he quickly responded, “Cam Newton is our quarterback.” He stamped out any questions about the situation, and wouldn’t allow for a quarterback controversy to get started. Because he didn’t sound nearly as definitive this time makes you wonder where his head is on the situation.
Perhaps his tone and choice of words denote a change is amiss.
It could be that Belichick is going to wait to sit down with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch so that he can gather their input before making a final decision. That could explain what some might have seen as some trepidation in Belichick’s answer.
On the other hand, we could be overanalyzing the entire thing. Belichick did bring up Newton’s passing yards in the loss to the Houston Texans in his response. You wonder if he’d bother doing that if he was considering benching Newton.
Was Newton Bad Enough to Warrant a Benching?
My answer to that question is no, at least not yet. When Newton threw an interception on the Patriots’ first play from scrimmage, it was his first pick in 117 pass attempts. It was the second-longest active streak of its kind in the NFL.
James White admitted not picking up the blitz assignment at the line of scrimmage on the play. The pressure and hit he allowed are what caused the interception. The second pick was all on Newton, and he acknowledged that in his post-game presser.
There isn’t a whole lot of ways to slice it; Newton wasn’t very good on Sunday, but yet he did come up with a huge play with his legs that set up the game-winning field goal from Nick Folk.
Also, it’s important to remember the Patriots did win the game. It’s hard to justify benching Newton after a victory. I completely understood benching Newton against the San Francisco 49ers. He played poorly and the Patriots were getting thrashed. Quite honestly, had Stidham come in the game and played well that day, I would have said it makes sense for him to start the next game and possibly the rest of the season.
However, that didn’t happen.
Stidham did what he’s been doing in all of the brief opportunities he’s received in the NFL, and that’s turn the ball over. He has completed 48.7 percent of his passes with one touchdown and four picks in his short NFL career.
On top of that, Stidham is not the leader that Newton is, and he’s also not the same kind of force as a runner. Because of those reasons, I still believe Newton is the best option at quarterback–and that he can lead this team to its best performances.
However, if he puts together another performance like this one in the first half against the Rams, it will indeed be Stidham time, and no one should argue against it. For now, I believe Belichick is sticking with Newton, but he won’t hesitate to make a change. We’ll find out soon as the man designated to start will see the reps with the starters in practice.