The New England Patriots have limped through much of the first half of the 2020 season. Cam Newton‘s struggles under center have played a significant part in the franchise falling out of the playoff picture. Despite that, head coach Bill Belichick has stuck firm to Newton as the starter. There may be clarity as to why the former Pro Bowler has had such a decisive vote of confidence.
Patriots’ struggles in the 2020 season
The New England Patriots were quite aware that significant changes were ahead in the 2020 season.
The many challenges have come about that put the franchise in unfamiliar territory to work their way back into the playoff picture. COVID-19 has heavily impacted the roster while offseason addition Cam Newton has struggled to find his footing.
Newton’s production has dramatically fluctuated over the last few weeks, as he hasn’t thrown a touchdown passes in the previous four games. His struggles have generated questions around his long-term future in New England.
Through it all, the Patriots have stuck firm with the former league MVP as their starting quarterback. There may finally be clarity as to why Bill Belichick has stood by Newton.
Why Bill Belichick hasn’t moved on from Cam Newton
The Patriots may have taken a much-needed step in the right direction with a Week 9 win over the New York Jets, but it’s been a difficult 2020 season. Much of the focus has shifted toward Cam Newton’s struggles to find consistency over the last few weeks that have put his future into question.
Through it all, head coach Bill Belichick has remained committed to Newton as the starter. Longtime Patriots beat writer Tom Curran may have pinpointed that Jarrett Stidham’s struggles are likely why the Patriots have stuck with the three-time Pro Bowler under center. (H/T Nick Gross NBC Sports Boston)
“From what I’m gathering, the Patriots don’t feel very good about Jarrett Stidham from, really July on,” Curran said.
“The things that have gone on with him in terms of — the absence of things that have gone on with him. No compete in terms of trying to win that job away from Cam Newton, and I think that is a big strike against him.”
There are certainly more factors in the equation, but Stidham’s shortcomings have played a considerable part. The team’s lack of stable confidence in him was a massive part of pushing the Patriots to bring Newton on board in the first place.
That isn’t to say that the organization won’t change their tone on Stidham, but it has left the door open for the 31-year-old to extend his opportunity in New England.
Opportunity ahead to bounce back
The Patriots have dropped five out of their first eight games, but their playoff hopes are not entirely crushed.
New England has a pathway to the playoff, especially with the expanded postseason format with another wildcard position. There is an uphill battle ahead, but they currently sit just two games out of the AFC’s final spot.
The Patriots do have some tough matchups ahead, starting with the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10 action. They also have one more go around with each of their AFC East divisional opponents. New England has challenging opponents outside their division, with the Arizona Cardinals and LA Rams remaining on their schedule.
The Patriots’ playoff chances will rest almost entirely on Cam Newton’s shoulders. Only time will tell if Newton can prove he’s the long-term answer under center.