Bill Belichick certainly has a well-documented history of making shocking moves. From trading established stars like Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins, and Chandler Jones to benching Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl 52 to going on an unprecedented spending spree in free agency this offseason, he’s shown no hesitation about doing what he believes is in the best interest of the New England Patriots.
On Tuesday, Belichick raised eyebrows around the NFL by bringing an abrupt end to the Cam Newton experiment. Ironically, it didn’t take long for him to pull another surprising move that has historic implications for a franchise that has a knack for turning undervalued players into key contributors.
New England shocked the NFL world by cutting ties with Cam Newton
For the last few months, Patriots fans have wondered whether Mac Jones could actually convince Belichick to move in a different direction at the most important position in sports. By making consistent progress and demonstrating the ability to run New England’s offense, the 22-year-old made the idea of starting a rookie quarterback more realistic than anyone could have expected four months ago.
Although Belichick publicly backed Newton throughout the spring and summer, his strange allegiance to the former Carolina Panthers star officially ended on Tuesday.
The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride first reported via Twitter that the Patriots released the 2015 NFL MVP. Instead of opening the season as New England’s starting quarterback, Newton must start from scratch with a new team. Then again, given his age, injury history, and unimpressive 2020 season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has a difficult time finding a franchise willing to take a flyer on him.
By cutting ties with the 32-year-old signal-caller, Belichick sent a clear message that it’s Jones’ time to shine. Transitioning from a veteran to a rookie comes with some risks, but the Patriots have a strong supporting cast in place that includes a top-five offensive line and a deep running back group headlined by top breakout candidate Damien Harris.
However, Belichick made another surprising move shortly after cutting Newton that will put another first-year player in a position to make a major impact during his first year in Foxborough.
Bill Belichick pulls another surprising move that has historic implications for the Patriots
Besides the battle between Newton and Jones, the Patriots have had another competition going on involving a promising rookie and a seasoned pro. Despite joining the team as an undrafted free agent, Quinn Nordin put himself in the mix to earn a roster spot. The big-legged kicker out of Michigan showcased intriguing potential in training camp and preseason games, but it still appeared as though incumbent starter Nick Folk would retain his job.
Unfortunately for the 36-year-old California native, Belichick did not take that route.
“The Patriots are expected to stick with rookie K Quinn Nordin as their starter, taking over the job from veteran Nick Folk, per source,” ESPN’s Field Yates reported via Twitter. “Nordin was looking for jobs on LinkedIn after this past NFL Draft and is now in line to handle kicking duties in New England.”
Going with a rookie kicker over a proven commodity certainly seems like a risky move by Belichick. However, the Patriots need a long-term answer at the position, so Nordin’s upside may have given him the edge over Folk.
With the former Wolverine reportedly set to take over full-time kicking duties, the Patriots will extend their streak of having at least one undrafted free agent make the final 53-man roster to 18 years. Belichick has done a masterful job over the last two decades of finding hidden gems after the draft, including key contributors like Malcolm Butler, David Andrews, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, and Jakobi Meyers. If Nordin irons out some of his accuracy issues — he missed a 36-yard field goal and a pair of extra points against the Philadelphia Eagles — he could solidify the kicker spot for years to come.
Belichick’s faith in Mac Jones and Quinn Nordin should make fans excited about the future of football in Foxborough
By rolling with Jones and Nordin over Newton and Folk, Belichick obviously feels confident about embracing the youth movement. And that’s exactly what makes the Patriots such an interesting team to monitor this season.
Sure, the defense still features familiar faces like Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, and Lawrence Guy. And the offensive line includes battle-tested veterans like David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Trent Brown. However, New England will depend upon several young players to step up in 2021.
Sticking on the defensive side of the ball, 2020 second-round picks Josh Uche and Kyle Dugger should receive a large uptick in snaps. Both possess elite athleticism for their respective positions, so it will be fascinating to see if they can maximize their physical tools and become impact playmakers. Plus, rookie second-round pick Christian Barmore should get a chance to contribute right away as an interior pass rusher on third downs.
Meanwhile, Jones takes over an offense that must get more out of recent early-round selections like left tackle Isaiah Wynn, wide receiver N’Keal Harry, and tight end Devin Asiasi. Luckily for the supremely accurate quarterback, Belichick signed established pass-catchers in free agency who should make his life easier.
Although Bill Belichick may not get a chance to celebrate a seventh Super Bowl victory in February, don’t be surprised if the Lombardi Trophy makes its way back to Foxborough sooner than later.