Why Bill Belichick’s approach with Cam Newton is intriguing


Bill Belichick, at his core, is a teacher.

Football is his subject. The field is his classroom.

As any impassionedly impactful teacher will tell you, all students can’t be treated the same. What works to reach and foster one might not be the recipe for motivational and educational success with another.

It’s an art much more than a science.

So, it’s probably not surprising that the way Belichick is handling Cam Newton through the former NFL MVP’s first two-plus months in New England is different than the way he treated Tom Brady. Different than maybe he’s dealt with other notorious veteran star additions over the years. Heck, maybe different than would have been expected by those who’ve seen the GOAT coach pull the strings on playmaking pupils for two decades in Foxborough.

For example, Belichick’s recent assessment of Newton on Sirius XM NFL Radio after less than one training camp working with the star quarterback certainly stood out.

“He’s an extremely hard worker. Nobody works harder than Cam does. He’s here early. He stays late, and he works very hard,” Belichick began, picking up steam in what some might consider prematurely over-the-top praise from a coach not so frequently prone to such.

“Cam is the type of player that works on things that he’s not as good at and really tries to improve on a daily basis and that is something that I really respect about him. That’s not easy for players — really any of us — to do. Look at something that we don’t feel like we’re very good at, or it is not one of our strengths, and put extra time into it.

“He’s got a great personality. He gets along with everybody. He’s very social and has a great presence, whether it is in a small room of a couple people or in a bigger group, and he’s highly competitive. He’s very, very competitive on the field. He always wants to do his best and do better than the guy he’s competing against. You see that from — everybody’s competitive — but I think there are different degrees of it and it looks like I would, based on what I’ve seen, I would put him in the top echelon of that.

"But his competition extends way beyond the field. It is off the field and in meetings and training and so forth. You know, it is important for him to be the first guy up the hill when we run sprints and it is important to him to be first in everything that he competes in and you can see the effort and the amount of energy that he puts into that. I’d say those are some of the things that have jumped out in the month or so that we have been here in person.”

Oh, that’s all? All he could think of to bring up on a national radio show after just a couple weeks?

This from a boss and master media manipulator who generally tries to squash any story he can, certainly one like the tall tale of a former No. 1 overall pick and MVP trying to take over for the greatest quarterback of all time on his team. Oftentimes in the past Belichickian verbal bouquets like the one given to Sirius regarding Newton were reserved for players with much longer careers in his employ and far lesser star power. Think James Develin. Matthew Slater. Or Patrick Chung.

Nope. Not this time. With Newton, Belichick is more than happy to tell the world how hard he works. How talented he is. How well he fits in.

Not the usual ‘we’ll see how it goes.’ Nor what would be a predictable, ‘we haven’t even played a game yet.’

Nope. Belichick is borderline smitten with what Newton has brought to New England. To the Patriots. To the QB room.

The curious case of Newton’s ascension to chosen-one status continued this week with the arrival of the foregone conclusion that he was the Patriots starting quarterback for 2020. No. 1 as officially QB1, if you will.

Belichick reportedly made the announcement to his entire squad in a team meeting. Is that the norm? Was it even necessary? Did he do it every summer for Brady over the years, when Belichick was browbeating the media each training camp with the idea that every individual has to reestablish himself every year? Don’t players have a pretty clear understanding of team roles based on practice reps and daily routines?

Or is it another example of Newton being put a Belichick-constructed Patriots pedestal?

Newton was also named a team captain for New England. One of seven supreme leaders for the six-time Super Bowl champions.

There apparently is no bridge or transition year at the quarterback position in New England post-Brady. Rather, Newton has slid right into the job as the star passer and leader. Seamlessly. Almost effortlessly. Practically like it’s part of some grand plan.

So, what’s the deal here?

The Boston Globe and others have posed the possibility that Belichick’s treatment of Newton might be a message to his former QB – Brady. Some tit for tat return of serve for the quarterback who’s now having “fun again” for an “offensive coach” in Tampa.

Or maybe the message is intended to resonate with Jarrett Stidham, the New England second-year backup once proposed as the potential future at the quarterback position who’s now relegated to life in the shadow of another passing star. A what-coulda-been example for a guy who still could be.

But maybe, just maybe, it is less manipulative and far more pure than that.

Maybe Belichick, who’s long seemingly lusted after an athletic quarterback, truly likes everything he sees with his newfound offensive centerpiece.

Maybe the aging coach believes he’s bridged the gap swiftly to his next franchise QB and wants to show Newton the love in a way that he didn’t with years or dollars in his contract.

Remember, Newton himself wondered aloud how he’d “mesh” with the seemingly old-school, entrenched-in-his-ways Belichick upon the Patriots initial interest in the then-floundering free agent.

Apparently, that’s not a problem. Belichick seemingly has gone all-in on Newton and what he’s brought to his new team. The honeymoon period between the curmudgeon coach and the magnetic, dapper-dressing QB is story of a summer love story for all the world to see. And the way Belichick is talking and acting, the coach may be laying the foundation for it to be a much longer term relationship than that.

Cam Newton is No. 1 on your 2020 Patriots roster. And, apparently, No. 1 in Belichick’s heart these days.

As the coach himself used to describe it in his less love-struck days, maybe there is no other quarterback he’d rather have.