Well, that didn’t take long. The New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones with the No. 15, and Bill Belichick has already named his starting quarterback for 2021–and it’s not the rookie he just selected with his first-round pick.
In a press conference late on Thursday night (h/t WBZ’s Dan Roche), Belichick said definitively, “Cam [Newton] is our quarterback.”
— Dan Roche (@RochieWBZ) April 30, 2021
Belichick mentioned both Jones and Jarrett Stidham, but it was clearly in a context that placed them below Newton in the QB pecking order. “Whatever time Jarrett or Mac are ready to challenge or compete, we’ll see how that goes. So, right now, Mac, he’s just got a lot of learning in front of him.”
When asked later in the presser what he meant by the “Cam is our quarterback” comment, Belichick responded, “exactly what I said.” The reporter pressed and asked, “for how long?” Belichick retorted, “I don’t know.”
Newton signed a one-year deal to return to the Patriots this offseason, and it appears Belichick is all-in on allowing him to show what he can do with more weapons and an overall retooled roster.
Cam Newton Still Gives the Patriots the Best Chance to Win
While it may be an unpopular opinion, it’s easy to see why Belichick and Co. still believe Newton gives them their best chance to win football games in 2021.
The team finished 7-9 (7-8 with Newton as the starter), and that was with a drastically undermanned defense and a subpar set of weapons in the passing game. Newton’s passing statistics suffered due to the lack of throwing options, little time to adjust to the new offense, compounded by his contracting of the COVID-19 virus, and some mechanics issues.
Still, he helped New England gut out seven victories, and he ran for 12 touchdowns, which added a desirable element to their offense.
The belief is the offense will be much improved with the addition of two new tight ends (Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry), new wide receivers (Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor with at least one rookie), a revamped offensive line, and the 2015 MVP’s enhanced grasp of the system.
Jones, as Belichick mentioned, will need time to learn the pro game. As for Stidham, it seems clear the Patriots aren’t big believers in him. If they were, would they have spent a first-round pick on Jones?
The answer is no.
Where Does This Leave Jarrett Stidham?
Stidham’s job may be safe for now as the team likely needs a veteran backup in the event Newton struggles, and Jones doesn’t prove to be ready to step in as a viable replacement.
Still, Stidham is clearly not long for New England. Perhaps the best scenario for the Patriots would be for all three quarterbacks to look great during training camp and the preseason. That way, Newton affirms his position as the starter, Jones looks capable as a backup, and Stidham raises his trade value.
Ultimately, it would be great if New England could get something for inevitably letting him go elsewhere.