Bill Belichick has spent his entire career turning castoffs and retreads into valuable contributors. The New England Patriots head coach somehow gets quality snaps out of players other teams give up on. Perhaps his biggest reclamation project success story involved Randy Moss. But by signing Cam Newton, Belichick can turn the former league MVP into his new Moss.
Randy Moss resurrected his career by joining forces with Bill Belichick
Thirteen years ago, Bill Belichick stunned the football world when he traded for Randy Moss. Many questioned whether the legendary wideout still had anything left in the tank. But as Patriots fans and their rivals quickly discovered, Moss still had plenty of juice in his legs.
For the paltry price of a fourth-round pick, Tom Brady got a chance to work with the most physically gifted receiver in NFL history. Of course, when Moss arrived, he had just posted the worst statistical season of his storied NFL career. Yet, the 30-year-old wasted no time showing everyone why he developed a reputation as the league’s most dangerous deep threat.
With a renewed joy for the game and the benefit of working with Belichick and Brady, Moss set the NFL’s single-season touchdown record by snagging 23 scores for a 16-0 Patriots team. The following year, he caught 69 passes for 1,008 yards and 11 scores even with Matt Cassel at quarterback. In 2009, he once again led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (13) with Brady back in the fold.
Though Moss ultimately got traded during the 2010 season, he clearly took advantage of the opportunity to rewrite his career narrative in New England. Now, Cam Newton has the same chance to show the rest of the league he has something left in the tank, too.
Cam Newton joins the Patriots with major question marks
Like Randy Moss, Cam Newton spent the early portion of his career carving out a reputation as one of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers. The former No. 1 overall pick quickly became one of the league’s most popular players in Carolina. With his rare combination of size and speed, Newton dominated as a dual-threat star, culminating in a 2015 MVP campaign.
However, the last few years haven’t been so kind to Cam. Injuries played a significant role in his decline. He underwent multiple surgeries on his throwing shoulder. Newton also missed nearly the entire 2019 season with a Lisfranc injury. After spending his entire career as the Panthers’ starting quarterback, he found himself without a job when Carolina cut him.
By signing a one-year deal with the Patriots, Newton clearly realized the best chance of breaking the bank again runs through New England. After all, Bill Belichick has done this before, but can he do it again?
Newton can look to Moss as a blueprint for success in New England
If Cam Newton wants to reinvent himself, he needs to look no further than Randy Moss. Like the Hall of Fame wideout, Newton joins the Patriots with plenty of question marks. Can he stay healthy? Can he adapt to Josh McDaniels’ offense? How will he handle Bill Belichick’s coaching and management style? What will happen when he faces adversity?
All of those questions must be answered primarily on the football field. But that’s the great part about Newton’s arrival. He now joins forces with two of the most brilliant minds in the NFL right now. Belichick has forever demonstrated that he will morph his team to whatever version he thinks has the best chance of success.
In this case, does that mean implementing read-option plays? After all, Newton has a small sample size of torching Belichick defenses with his ability to run. Plus, McDaniels does have a history of trying to make things work with mobile quarterbacks when he drafted Tim Tebow in Denver.
Looking at Newton’s future in New England, he absolutely can follow in Moss’ footsteps. Assuming he wins the starting job, he can set himself up for a massive payday next offseason. Perhaps he’ll showcase so much growth on and off the field that Belichick hands him a long-term deal. Or he could use the franchise tag to ensure Newton sticks around for at least 2021.
Either way, Newton has a tremendous opportunity to prove his doubters wrong. And what better way to do so than to work with the greatest coach in NFL history? Bill Belichick saved Randy Moss’ career. Now, let’s see if he can do it again with Cam Newton.
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference