Every analysis on Cam Newton joining the New England Patriots is wrapped in one giant "if" stretched so tight around the examination it threatens to burst into a thousand pieces.
If Cam Newton is healthy. If.
If Newton is healthy, the "competition" with Jarrett Stidham won't be a competition at all. If Newton is healthy, the Patriots remain contenders. If Newton is healthy, Josh McDaniels' creativity might be unleashed like it hasn't been in years, having been shackled with a great but immobile pliability instructor at QB. If... If... If...
Based on his social media posts, Newton looks healthy and has reiterated his foot and shoulder are good to go in 2020.
The man to last call plays for Newton in Carolina, Norv Turner, views Newton in New England as a pairing that can shine. Turner told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated that he spoke with coach Bill Belichick earlier this offseason and provided a glowing review.
"My whole deal is, when Cam was healthy, and we were there with him [in 2018], we were 6-2," Turner said. "Just look at the tape -- played his ass off. His issue was more health than anything else, and from what I understand, I don't think these are health issues that he can't overcome. He's had the time off now. I think he'll be great."
In those eight games under Turner in 2018, Newton looked phenomenal and back to his 2015 NFL MVP level. Turner spent that offseason discussing how he wanted to help turn Newton into a Ben Roethlisberger-type passer. It looked good for eight weeks, as the signal-caller completed 177 of 263 pass attempts (67.3 percent) for 1,893 yards with 15 TDs and four INTs at 7.2 yards per attempt, and rushed 73 times for 342 yards and four more scores.
Then the shoulder issue crept back up, and Newton struggled with accuracy and pushing the ball down the field. He was finally shut down after six more games, as he clearly was not right. Then last year, he played just two games with a foot injury that didn't allow him to throw more than five yards downfield. In all, Newton hasn't been healthy during the regular season since Nov. 2018.
As his last coordinator, Turner is an obvious resource for Belichick to reach out to help understand the psyche and ability of the player -- especially given the dichotomy with which Newton is perceived differently by much of the public than by teammates and coaches.
Belichick probably didn't need a ton of help examining what type of difference-maker Newton can be on the field if healthy. All he needed to do was dig out one of his old scouting reports.
"When you're talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions -- I mean, I would put Newton at the top the list," Belichick said in 2017 before a game against the Panthers, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.
"Not saying that there aren't a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say, of all the guys we play or have played recently in the last couple of years, he's the hardest guy to deal with. He makes good decisions, he can run, he's strong, he's hard to tackle. He can do a lot of different things, beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game down there in '13, so I would put him at the top of the list. Not saying the other guys aren't a problem, because they are, but he's public enemy No. 1."
Newton is 2-0 versus Belichick in his career, throwing for 525 yards at a 71.9 percent completion rate with six TDs and one INT. Newton has the highest completion percentage (71.9) and highest passer rating (128.2) among all QBs to make two or more starts versus the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era (since 2000, including playoffs), per NFL Research.
If he stays healthy, Newton in New England will be one of the most intriguing storylines to track during the 2020 campaign. If he can't, it's a low-cost gamble by Belichick that can be easily wiped away. The upside for the Pats is enormous if Newton truly returns to form.