By Sean Sylver, 98.5 The Sports Hub
New England hasn’t had a quarterback controversy in 19 years.
That’s almost unheard of in the NFL.
Plenty of teams have employed the same quarterback for a long time: Pittsburgh, for example. But the Steelers’ stability at QB only tracks back to Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season. Remember Tommy Maddox and Kordell Stewart?
Before Philip Rivers, the Chargers had Drew Brees. For all the numbers Rivers compiled in southern California (he’s now with the Colts), you can argue they kept the wrong guy. But at the turn of the century, pre-Brees, they had Jim Harbaugh and Doug Flutie – two past-their-prime veterans brought in to bail water from the sinking S.S. Ryan Leaf.
The 49ers – for a long time the gold standard in elite quarterback play – got 18 years out of Joe Montana and Steve Young, then got a few Pro Bowl seasons out of Jeff Garcia, to boot.
But we’re talking 27 years, here.
The Green Bay Packers are the only franchise that can compare to the Patriots in terms of quarterback stability. The Aaron Rodgers/Brett Favre trajectory goes all the way back to 1992, one year before Bledsoe was drafted.
It was Bledsoe who presided over the re-emergence of the franchise and took them to a Super Bowl in 1997. Brady took the ball from Bledsoe in moving the Pats from the No. 4 team in town to the top attraction by a mile.
But what do we expect the Patriots to be, post-Brady?
And how does Cam Newton figure into that?
We all know the accolades. Heisman Trophy. Rookie of the Year. MVP. Beyond that, he’s been one of the most recognizable stars in sports for a decade. But now, Newton must navigate the dynamic of taking over for a legend.
I wonder what effect that has on his expectations, the team’s expectations, and those of the fans.
If hobbled, Newton’s stay in New England will most definitely be a short one. If healthy, the Pats should be a playoff team, perhaps one with a shot of getting out of the AFC, as Bledsoe’s crew did all those years ago.
But is this a one-year thing to rebuild Newton’s reputation so he can get a big contract somewhere else? Or is it more than that? I can see both parties recognizing the symbiotic benefits of 2020, then turning the ball over to Jarrett Stidham while Newton searches for a Super Bowl elsewhere.
Alternatively, do the Patriots think a healthy Newton represents their best chance at a Lombardi Trophy over the next half-decade?
Finally, is Newton actively looking to carve out a legacy in New England? Does he think this team has a chance to get him the one trophy he hasn’t been able to kiss?
In case you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of questions.
With training camp on the horizon, the cloud of Brady continues to cast a long shadow. We’re already seeing the effects on Julian Edelman’s Instagram.
A vintage performance from Newton will quickly introduce a whole new set of questions – the likes of which only the fans of the most successful teams get to ask.
Let’s hope we’re so lucky. Again.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can find him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.