These statistics show Cam Newton is not the Patriots’ problem
Cam Newton may not be an elite quarterback in 2020. He may not even be a top-10 quarterback. But he has been right at league average when looking at his entire body of work on the season. Considering he’s on the salary cap for $1.05 million, the veteran minimum, Newton has far exceeded expectations.
When looking at his EPA (Expected Points Added), CPOE (completion % above expected) and a composite of the two stats, Newton ranks right in the middle of the NFL, in the company of quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, Jared Goff, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and the one, the only Tom Brady. Those quarterbacks’ cap hits exceed $23 million in 2020.
The idea that Newton is “statistically average” might be problematic for the Patriots if they were built to rely upon their quarterback. But financially, we know that’s not how they’ve structured Newton’s contract. He is one of the best bargains in the NFL, and a brilliant offseason addition at a position where Patrick Mahomes just signed a half-billion-dollar contract.
Here’s a look at a chart, via RBSDM.com/stats. It shows Newton is right in the middle of the league on the season.
And here’s a chart specifically from Weeks 8-11 that shows how much Newton has progressed over the last four weeks.
Graphs can be confusing, especially ones with advanced statistics. But in basic terms, if Newton is higher up on the y-axis, that means he brings more points to the team. If Newton is further right on the x-axis, that means he completes more passes above the expected rate. If he’s both high and to the right, he’s besting the league average in both categories.
So, yes, over the last few weeks, Newton has done just that, registering an 11th-best composite CPOE-EPA. With Newton performing at that level and playing on the contract that he has, the Patriots should be winning more games. Clearly, the quarterback isn’t the problem, especially when he’s clearly deemphasized from a team-building standpoint, at least when considering finances. The Steelers, Rams, Saints and Buccaneers are among the league’s best teams, with their quarterbacks performing at roughly the same level as Newton (but making roughly 20 times more).
The Patriots allocated money to other parts of the roster, with the defense taking a large point of focus. Sadly, that defense has the NFL’s worst DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). It doesn’t help that the Patriots still have money on the cap for players who aren’t on the team (Brady, Antonio Brown). It didn’t help New England was tight for cap space during early free agency, only to see a league-high eight players opt out of 2020. Suddenly, the Patriots had a tremendous amount of cap space, but no one to spend it on. All the good free agents had, for the most part, already signed.
There’s no way New England entered the 2020 season with the intention of asking Newton to win game after game. They didn’t sign Newton until late June and they didn’t name him the starter until late in training camp. He has exceeded expectations with his play — especially when considering he contracted COVID-19, which enormously disrupted his season. So let’s cast aside the notion that he’s a bad player. And let’s also ignore any assessment that he’s the one to blame for New England’s 4-6 record.