New England Patriots: Why the starting QB hasn’t been announced yet

Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The next time we watch the New England Patriots in action, it will be during their regular season home opener on September 12th against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots finished off their preseason action with a 22-20 victory over the New York Giants last night, and finished with a clean 3-0 record when all was said and done.

There are still many questions to be addressed in regards to the roster, but most of them will be answered by tomorrow afternoon when rosters have to be trimmed down to 53. The performances on those on roster bubble last night could end up making or breaking their chances of sticking on the roster, but one spot that remains unsolved for New England is the quarterback position.

This time last week, it seemed like last year’s starter, Cam Newton, had locked up the position after a dominant performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. But then Newton was forced to spend five days away from the team due to a COVID issue, and with Mac Jones finding an opportunity to make his case for Week 1 starter, he stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park.

Jones was fantastic during joint practices against the Giants when playing with the first team offense this past week, and he easily outplayed Newton last night in the preseason finale. Newton played less, but he finished with just 10 yards and a pick compared to Jones 156 yards and a touchdown. It’s not hard to pick which performance was better.

As a result, the quarterback competition has never been more up for grabs. Bill Belichick acknowledged as much when he remained non-committal to naming a starting quarterback in his press conference immediately following last night’s game. It’s a sharp turn from the beginning of training camp when Belichick proclaimed Newton as the starter unless something drastic happened.

It appears that maybe something drastic did indeed happen. Jones has looked like a seasoned veteran for much of camp, and the fact that Belichick hasn’t committed to either quarterback yet shows just how close this race is. It seems odd that Belichick has waited this long to announce a starter, but there may be a reason aside from the competition for this prolonged wait.

The New England Patriots uncertainty at QB could end up helping them

Most of the time in the NFL, you are going to know who is under center for a certain team. For the past 20 years in New England, teams knew they were going to be facing off against Tom Brady and friends, and did whatever they could to slow him down. They usually failed in their efforts to do so.

Right now, nobody knows who the New England Patriots starting quarterback is going to be. Just about every other team has either had a clear starter from the get-go, or announced who won the quarterback competition. And maybe, that’s the way Belichick wants things be.

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The longer Belichick holds off on announcing New England’s starting quarterback, it puts the rest of the league, specifically their Week 1 opponent, the Miami Dolphins, in a bind. If the New England Patriots don’t announce who their starting quarterback is, Miami is going to be forced to prepare for either of the quarterbacks to line up under center when the game starts. See where I’m going with this?

Belichick is leveraging his own competition against the rest of the NFL. Sure, this is purely speculative, and he could end up making the call once the roster is set at 53 tomorrow, but the longer he waits, the more likely this becomes. And he couldn’t have two quarterbacks that are less alike than Jones and Newton.

Think about it; Newton is the definition of a mobile quarterback. He uses his legs to pick up first downs, is proficient with the run-pass offense, and even has designed running plays drawn up for him. Jones on the other hand is a pure pocket passer. He’s not going to have running plays drawn up for him, and rarely will have an RPO play called up when he’s under center.

These are two completely different quarterbacks that have two completely different playstyles. And until one is announced as starter, the Dolphins will be forced to prepare for either of them to be under center. It’s a lot easier to figure out how to stop one quarterback than it is to stop two.

The longer the Pats wait, the more difficult it makes things on Miami. They will have to draw up two completely different defensive game plans; one for Newton and one for Jones. That’s the beauty of waiting if the Patriots decide to go that route.

It also wouldn’t be as if New England waits until the last minute and then makes the decision. They would internally make the call, but just hold off on announcing it to make things tougher on their opponent.

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Belichick has been notorious for finding different ways to create an advantage for himself, and he may very well have just found another one with his quarterback competition. The longer he waits to announce his starter, the tougher it makes it on the rest of the league, which is why fans shouldn’t expect to know who will be the New England Patriots starting quarterback anytime soon.