Sports | August 31, 2021 11:41 am

Why Did the Patriots Cut Cam Newton and Go With Mac Jones as Their Starter?

The former MVP started all three preseason games for the Patriots and played reasonably well

Cam Newton looks on from the bench during his final game with the New England Patriots. The QB was surprisingly cut before the season's start.
Cam Newton looks on from the bench during his final game with the New England Patriots.
Mike Stobe/Getty

After starting all three preseason games and playing reasonably well in addition to posting he was the QB1 in an Instagram photo, Cam Newton has been cut by the New England Patriots and is now free to sign with another team.

The Patriots, at least for now, will move ahead with rookie Mac Jones as their starting quarterback. For Newton, who looked better this preseason than he did during the regular season last year, the future appears far less certain.

According to Adam Beasley of the Pro Football Network, a perfect storm of factors converged to help blow the 32-year-old former MVP out of New England. “There wasn’t just one reason that Cam Newton is gone,” he wrote on Twitter in the wake of the release. “It was a combination of at least three, I’m told: Mac Jones’ emergence, Newton’s vaccination stance (which caused a bit of a stir behind the scenes) and Cam’s uninspiring performance this summer.”

Regardless, the release comes as a surprise, which is fairly obvious when you look at how both players carried themselves on Sunday during and after New England’s final preseason game on Sunday night.

When looking at the reasons mentioned by Beasley, “Jones’ emergence” and “Cam’s uninspiring performance” seem as if they might be slightly overstated. In the preseason, Jones completed 36-of-52 (69%) for 388 yards and a score, but did at least half of that damage against second-stringers. Newton was 14-of-21 (66%) for 162 yards with a TD and an interception in the Patriots’ three preseason games against, mostly, starters. To his credit, Jones may have been slightly sharper than Newton but, at least in the exhibition games, the gap between the quarterbacks was very, very slim.

Which brings us to the third reason Beasly cited for Newton’s release: his vaccination status.

Following a “misunderstanding” about COVID protocols during a team-approved trip for a medical appointment two weekends ago, Newton missed three days of practice last week, including a joint session with the New York Giants. Newton also missed a game last season after testing positive for COVID-19 and Patriots coach Bill Belichick may have decided that moving forward with the former No. 1 overall pick as his starting quarterback was just too risky. If that is the case, it certainly doesn’t help Newton’s cause that the NFLPA has been pushing for daily testing for all players since the start of training camp and may eventually get its wish amid the ongoing Delta variant surge. It is not exclusive to Newton, but his vaccination status is “a clear example of how being unvaccinated is a competitive disadvantage to an individual player as well as to his team,” as NFL reporter Judy Battista pointed out on Twitter.

It is also likely a factor in why the team didn’t retain Newton as a backup and may hurt him signing with another team in free agency.

For what it’s worth, Newton sounded optimistic about landing on his feet with another team in his most recent post on social media.

Time will tell what happens with Newton, but in New England it’s now time for Jones to try to fill Tom Brady’s cleats.

“I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to play and I can improve on everything I want to improve on,” Jones said when asked about the starting job after Sunday’s game. “So I think just learning from [Brian] Hoyer, Cam, Jarrett [Stidham], any one I can, and listening to Josh [McDaniels] and his coaching, there’s a lot of work to do but I think I’ve made progress. But, honestly, the only thing that matters is today.”

Not anymore. With Newton gone, September 12 when the Patriots open against the Dolphins matters quite a bit for Jones, as does Brady’s return to New England with the Bucs on October 3. Unless Jimmy Garoppolo gets cut …