In 1993, the New England Patriots weren’t yet the dynasty they’ve become. The team hadn’t made the postseason since 1986 and was coming off a fourth consecutive losing season. Bill Belichick was in his third year as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Drew Bledsoe was an unproven rookie. Tom Brady was attending Junipero High School in California. As for new Pats quarterback Cam Newton, he was four years old.
So why are we talking about 1993? Well, it’s actually quite astonishing.
When Cam Newton, who was recently named the starter for the 2020 season, steps onto the field in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, he’ll be the first non-homegrown quarterback to start for the New England Patriots since 1993, a span of 423 games, 471 games if you include the postseason.
Makes sense now, right?
Cam Newton was named the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots and is also a captain
In a not-so-surprising announcement this past Thursday, Bill Belichick named Cam Newton as the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots for the 2020 season. There had been talk of a quarterback competition between Newton and Jarrett Stidham, with Belichick even saying at one point that he would contemplate some sort of platoon system, but most felt that if Cam Newton was healthy, he’d get the ball in Week 1 against Miami.
What was a bit surprising was that Newton was also named one of the captains of the team, filling the void left by Tom Brady, who was a captain in 18 of his 20 seasons in New England. It’s very rare for the Pats to select a player in his first season with the team as a captain but the players voted on it and he’ll be one of three offensive captains in 2020. Center David Andrews and running back James White were also selected.
Cam Newton will play his first game in more than a year in Week 1
The New England Patriots’ Week 1 matchup with the Dolphins on September 13 will mark Cam Newton’s first game in just over a year. His last appearance in an NFL game came on September 12, 2019, for the Carolina Panthers’ Week 2 game against Tampa Bay. Newton played only the first two weeks of the 2019 season and did not perform well, completing just 50 of 89 passes for 572 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception. The Panthers lost both games.
The 2015 NFL MVP had sprained his left foot in Carolina’s third preseason game but hadn’t really let on how much it was bothering him. He was held out of the Panthers’ Week 3 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals and it was later revealed that he’d suffered a Lisfranc fracture. Newton was placed on injured reserve in early November and never returned to the team. He was released by Carolina on March 24 of this year and signed a one-year deal with the Patriots in July.
The New England Patriots haven’t started a non-homegrown quarterback since 1993
When Cam Newton takes the field in Week 1, he’ll be the first non-homegrown quarterback to start for the New England Patriots since November 7, 1993. Rookie Drew Bledsoe, whom the Pats had drafted with the first overall pick earlier that year, started the first four games for New England but then went down with an injury. He was replaced in Week 5 by backup Scott Secules, who had signed with the team as a free agent ahead of the season. Secules started four of the next five games but went down in the team’s ninth game, a 13-10 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills, with a separated shoulder. A healthy Bledsoe finished the game and resumed his position as the starter.
Since then, the New England Patriots have played 423 games in the regular season and every single one of them has been started by a quarterback that the team drafted. After taking back the starting job in November 1993, Bledsoe started 118 out of a possible 121 games until his famous injury in 2001. In the three games that he missed, Scott Zolak, whom the Patriots had drafted in 1991, was named the starter.
When Tom Brady took over following Bledsoe’s injury, he started 283 games over the course of 19 seasons. Following his injury in Week 1 of the 2008 season, the next 15 games were started by Matt Cassel. When Brady was serving his “Deflategate” suspension to begin the 2016 season, Jacoby Brissett (drafted by the Patriots in 2016) and Jimmy Garoppolo (drafted by the Patriots in 2014) split the four starts.
It should be noted that the 423 games in this streak don’t include the postseason. Since 1993, the Patriots have played 48 playoff games. Tom Brady started 41 of them, Drew Bledsoe started six, and Scott Zolak started one. So if you want to get technical, New England has played 471 consecutive games with a homegrown quarterback as the starter.
So Cam Newton truly is ushering in a new era for the New England Patriots.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference