With the departure of so many veteran players and coaches this offseason, the pressure is squarely on Bill Belichick in 2020.
The Patriots are facing their most uncertain off-season in nearly two decades. Tom Brady is now a Buccaneer while key defensive front seven contributors such as Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Danny Shelton have moved on to greener pastures. Also, legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired, leaving the Patriots more vulnerable than they have been since the Clinton Administration.
Winning the AFC East has generally been a formality under the leadership of Bill Belichick. It is not a fait accompli that the Patriots will win their 18th division title in 20 years as the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets finally appear headed in the right direction.
After adding very little during free agency and getting uneven draft grades, Patriots’ fans can’t guarantee that the team will even qualify for the expanded playoffs this season. The biggest unknown is, who will replace Brady? At this point, it is apparent that second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham has the unenviable task of succeeding the GOAT.
There is a former NFL MVP available for the right price. Cam Newton has been dealing with injuries for the last two years. If healthy, he would give the Patriots a viable signal-caller. The biggest roadblock would be the salary cap. The Patriots would need to move players or restructure contracts to fit Newton into their cap. Or, Newton could take a low-level contract as Jameis Winston did with New Orleans. But, unlike Winston, Newton is looking for a starting job, not a backup role.
Newton on a one-year prove-it deal could work perfectly for both the player and team.
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Remember when the Red Sox signed free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre to a one year deal before the 2010 season? Beltre hit 28 home runs to go along with 102 RBI, .919 OPS, and a 141 OPS +. After his all-star season with the Red Sox, Beltre signed with Texas, where he finished what will be a Hall-of-Fame career.
Newton could make the Patriots contenders and increase his value and become a sought after free agent. Newton turns 31 in a week. Patriot fans are opposed to bringing the former Heisman Trophy winner to Foxboro. In a recent poll I conducted, 58% voted “NO” to signing Newton.
In another poll I ran, an overwhelming number of Patriots’ fans want Stidham as their starting quarterback
— John Sapochetti (@johnsap25) April 30, 2020
Stidham lapped the field with 63 percent of the vote, followed by Newton at 13 percent and 7 percent for Hoyer. At the time the poll was conducted, Andy Dalton was included but he recently signed as a free agent with Dallas after being released by Cincinnati.
Another option is #TankingForTrevor. Essentially tank the season in hope of getting the first pick in the 2021 draft and selecting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is the best QB prospect since John Elway…38 years ago.
In yet another poll I conducted (I appear to run more polls than Gallup Inc.),
Pats’ fans are not on board with #TankingForTrevor. 78 percent voted no to only 22 percent in favor of losing on purpose to get the first overall pick.
Of the multiple quarterback options, #TankingForTrevor would be the sexiest. If he turns out to be as good as I think he will be, the quarterback position would be in good hands and even better hair with the uber-talented Lawrence.
Adding a veteran signal-caller like Newton as a bridge to Stidham would be dangerous, since the only way to find out if Stidham “IS” the next guy is to play him. The most likely scenario is to stay the course and have Hoyer back up Stidham in hopes that the former Auburn star develops into an excellent quarterback.
It appears that seems to be the route that Belichick will choose.
Belichick trails the recently deceased Don Shula 347-304 on the all-time wins list. A record Belichick cherishes and wants. At 68, it is highly doubtful he will go into tank mode.
Through this all, the man facing the most pressure going into 2020 is Belichick.
The “Hoodie” is gambling that he can win without Brady this season. In seven-plus seasons without Brady, Belichick has a pedestrian 54-63 record in the regular season and a 1-1 ledger in the postseason. With Brady, Belichick went 219-64 in the regular and 30-11 in the postseason.
Since Belichick became Belichick and the Patriots became the Patriots his/their record without Brady is 14-6.
Ironically, the greatest professional football coach of the Super Bowl Era, in his 26th season as a head coach, actually has the most to prove of any current coach in the NFL.
He has set the bar that high.
John Sapochetti is Co-Host
Of The “SAP & KAT SHOW”
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