Why Ron Rivera Passed on Bringing Cam Newton to Washington

Ron Rivera Cam Newton

Ron Rivera did not “bet” on signing Cam Newton following his release from the Carolina Panthers in March 2020. This may have been a shock to some who thought Coach Rivera would immediately reunite with his former quarterback in Washington. He did not “bet” on Newton this past off-season either, instead signing veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year, $10 million deal. Rivera also did not “bet” on Newton following his release from the New England Patriots on August 31, 2021. Rivera earned his “Riverboat” nickname for being a risky play caller as the coach of the Panthers. So why would the coach not take the calculated risk of bringing a former league MVP to Washington?

Why Ron Rivera Keeps Passing on Cam Newton Reunion in Washington

A Calculated Risk

In 2015, Newton was the NFL MVP and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. In 2016, Newton saw a sharp decline in his performance. Newton’s QBR dropped from 61.4 in 2015 to 47.8 in 2016. His touchdown passes also dropped from 35 in 2015 to 19 in 2016.

Some might suggest that Newton reached his peak in 2015. Since 2015, Newton has not had a QBR over 53.2 or thrown for more than 24 touchdowns in a season. Newton’s health, like his passing stats, also began to decline. Newton had two shoulder surgeries, one in March 2017 and one in January 2019. In 2019, Newton played in only two games after being sidelined with what would later be diagnosed as a Lisfranc injury. This final injury along with a new head coach led to Cam Newton’s eventual release from the Panthers. 

The “Other” Panthers Quarterback

Kyle Allen is the only former Panthers quarterback Rivera brought to Washington. Why was Allen, who backed up Newton in Carolina, brought to Washington instead of the former MVP? As a starter in 2019, Allen went 5-7  with a QBR of 38.3. Allen threw for 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He also also came up short on a potential game winning drive against Washington in 2019.  After this loss to Washington in 2019, Ron Rivera was ultimately fired a few days later and named the Washington head coach in January 2020. 

Did Coach Rivera think that Allen was a better quarterback than Newton? While that is highly unlikely, the coach felt in spite of Allen’s pedestrian statistics, he was a better fit than Newton for offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system. The stats told the coach that Newton’s production was in a steady decline after his league MVP season. Newton’s previous injuries also did not help make the case for his former coach to bring him to Washington.

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With a Washington quarterback room that includes Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, and Kyle Allen, it appears that there is no room left on the depth chart for Newton. Only time will tell if “Riverboat Ron” made the right decision by passing on Newton. The league MVP version of Cam Newton can make any NFL team better. However, Coach Rivera may have realized something that the rest of us are just finding out. The best days of Cam Newton as a NFL quarterback are behind him.

Maybe the coach they call “Riverboat” realized that the risk of bringing Newton to Washington was greater than the reward.    

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