Cam Newton is the New England Patriots' starting quarterback as of Monday, Aug,. 23. But his competition with rookie Mac Jones is far from over.
After offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels confirmed Sunday that Newton is the starter "now," head coach Bill Belichick was asked Monday morning what it would take for Jones to unseat the incumbent.
"Well, I think the fact Cam started last year and he’s here, somebody is going to have to play better than him," Belichick said on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show." "We’re not going to take a job and say, ‘OK, here, this is gift-wrapped for somebody.’
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"Training camp is all about competition. There’s an element of who the starter is, but there’s also the competition and in the end the competition is going to decide how things go in any given year."
After nearly two decades of Tom Brady running the show and one year with Newton at the helm, the Patriots have a real competition at QB for the first time since Brady unseated Drew Bledsoe in 2001. Jones has displayed poise and efficiency during training camp and in two preseason games, showcasing the promise that led New England to select him No. 15 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Newton has the NFL experience that Jones lacks, though, which could give him an edge over the rookie early in the season. But there's also a third scenario where the Patriots use both Newton and Jones in regular-season game action.
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Belichick isn't ruling that out either.
"Here’s what I will always say: I will always say I am going to do what is best for the team," Belichick said when asked if he would consider using a QB platoon. "I am going to do whatever I can to help the team win.
"So, if that’s playing a guard in the backfield, then we’ll play a guard in the backfield. If it’s putting 10 defensive backs on the field, if that’s what it is, maybe we’ll put 10 defensive backs on the field. I am not going to rule out anything. If I think something would help us win, I would consider it."
As our Tom E. Curran wrote recently, a QB platoon could present a major challenge for defenses that have to prepare for two contrasting styles in Newton and Jones. If neither Newton nor Jones emerges as the clear-cut QB1, it's possible that Belichick and McDaniels would work both players into the game plan to keep defenses on their toes.
Even if the Patriots have a preferred starter in mind, it makes sense why Belichick wouldn't reveal that publicly to tip New England's hand. So, don't expect any quarterback option to be fully ruled out when the Patriots' season begins Sept. 12 against the Miami Dolphins.