When analyzing sports and sports betting, oftentimes we compare and contrast the quality of teams before and after the departure of an important team member. Perhaps no player in the history of the NFL meant more to his team than Tom Brady did to the New England Patriots, who unquestionably would never have dreamed of winning six Super Bowl titles without him. But it was time for the 43-year old quarterback, affectionately referred to by fans as the “G.O.A.T.”, to move on to a new chapter after 20 years with the Pats.
Now, nearly a quarter into the 2020 season, the heartbreak has dissipated in New England, and the Cam Newton era has gotten off to a great start. Are the Patriots actually somehow better without their beloved three-time MVP? It sounds preposterous at first, but it’s really simple when you break it down.
It Was Time for a Change
Tensions and passive aggressiveness between Tom Brady and Patriots coach/GM Bill Belichick seemed to be at an all-time high last year. Despite a good record all season, these two legends of the sport never seemed like they were having much fun. Reading between the lines, it appeared Brady seemed upset at the lack of weapons Belichick assembled (or failed to assemble) around him. And Belichick seemed dissatisfied with Brady’s inaccuracy and on-field decision making.
The Patriots’ strong start to the 2019 season was largely fueled by Belichick’s prolific defensive unit. He had molded a relatively-unknown group of linebackers into total studs, and fielded a dynamic secondary to stifle opponents. Belichick beamed with pride whenever anyone asked him about his baby, the humble and hard-working Patriots defensive unit.
But Brady seemed miserable, even after wins. He would make comments about how the offense needed to be better, and how he and the receivers needed to get on the same page. He appeared to have contempt for 2019 rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry for not running the right routes. He was reportedly furious that Belichick cut early-season acquisition Antonio Brown due to speculation of continual off-field issues. Things were not good.
So, when Brady announced in the spring that he had informed Pats owner Robert Kraft of his departure to Tampa Bay to go play with the Buccaneers, fans were disappointed but in no way shocked. Many saw it as a move that had to happen eventually, for the sake of the short-term stability and long-term outlook of the franchise.
What fans never expected from that point was to end up better off the season after Brady’s departure as they were when they still had the future Hall of Famer.
Superman to the Rescue
For months after Tom Brady announced he was signing with the Bucs, New Englanders were preparing themselves to hand the throne over to second-year quarterback Jarret Stidham. The 6-foot-3 Auburn product experienced some bumps in the road in his limited playing time as a rookie, so Patriots Nation nervously held its collective breath in anticipation of a “bridge year” of sorts.
But Belichick stunned Bostonians—and NFL fans across the nation, for that matter—when he signed the consensus pick top free agent available, former Carolina Panthers MVP Cam Newton. “Superman” was coming to don the red, white, and blue colors of the New England Patriots. Would this work?
So far, Newton has passed with flying colors. Through three games, Newton has the Pats at 2-1 and racking up the eighth-most total offensive yards in the league. The Patriots are even seeing their Superbowl odds improve. The Pats now have the 10th best odds to win the Superbowl, much improved from where they started the season. Thanks to the 31-year old QB’s size, strength, speed, and athleticism, New England ranks first in the NFL in rushing yards, first in rushing touchdowns, and second in first downs.
Newton has also succeeded with throwing the ball when it’s needed. He passed for 397 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots’ only defeat so far, a game in which he almost pulled off the upset of MVP-frontrunner Russell Wilson’s Seahawks in Seattle. Newton demonstrated clearly that he has already formed amazing chemistry with Harry and former Brady favorite Julian Edelman. Edelman caught 8-of-11 targets for a whopping 179 yards in the comeback effort. And Harry already has more catches (15) and yards (145) this season than he had in the entire 2020 season (12, 105).
A Change New Englanders Can Believe In
New England sports fans endured seemingly-endless amounts of disappointment in the 20th century, but the 21st century has been as kind to them as any other demographic. Thus, the concept of the Pats losing Boston’s greatest all-time sports player must have been a delight to most of the rest of the country. New England was prepared to go back to the late-80s and early-90s level of suck, building for the future.
But infusing the athletic marvel that is Cam Newton into the system of Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has looked like a match made in heaven. Through three games, Newton has a better completion percentage (68.1%) than Brady (65.1%), a higher yards-per-catch average (11.5 to 10.6), and more first downs (38 to 33). Tom Brady has six passing touchdowns to Netwon’s two, but Newton has a league-leading four quarterback scramble TDs while Brady has one.
The bottom line is, Newton has bought in to Belichick’s system and he and the Patriots skill players look to be motivated game in and game out. While Newton and Brady are impossible to compare in a vacuum, as they are completely different kinds of quarterbacks, you cannot argue with the results on the field so far in New England. Time will tell if this move will allow the Pats to return to glory, never mind back to the Super Bowl for a record 12th time. But so far, moving on from the GOAT appears to have been a sage business decision in both the short and long-term.
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