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Did Cam Newton just make the Patriots … cool?

The Patriots are geniuses. We knew this much already from the organization’s penchant for excellence, the ability to build and rebuild quality rosters — and somehow always feel relevant, no matter what was going on around the rest of the league. This is a little different.

Signing Cam Newton was a genius move, but not in the ways we’ve praised the Patriots in the past. This wasn’t some hidden gem, a gutsy signing nobody else had the bravery to make, or a schematic shift that zigged when the rest of the league zagged. No, this was just a case of a smart team being smart when so much of the rest of the league decided to be dumb. Genius manifesting itself not as intelligence, but rather an absence of stupidity. At a time in the NFL where so many teams acted stupid in evaluating quarterbacks, New England was the smartest team in the room.

Look no further than exactly what the Patriots are getting for their money, compared to the rest of the NFL when it comes to free agent quarterbacks signed this offseason.

2020 Free Agent QBs

Name Age Team Years Contract Amount Passing YDS TD QB rating
Name Age Team Years Contract Amount Passing YDS TD QB rating
Teddy Bridgewater 28 Carolina 3 $63M 7,652 38 88.3
Tom Brady 42 Tampa Bay 2 $50M 74,571 541 97
Philip Rivers 38 Indianapolis 1 $25M 59,271 397 95.1
Case Keenum 32 Cleveland 3 $18M 14,368 75 85.3
Marcus Mariota 26 Las Vegas 2 $17.6M 13,207 76 89.6
Chase Daniel 33 Detroit 3 $13.05M 1,430 7 87.5
Jeff Driskel 27 Denver 2 $5M 1,688 10 79.6
Andy Dalton 32 Dallas 1 $3M 31,594 204 87.5
Colt McCoy 33 New York Giants 1 $2.25M 6,080 29 78.4
Joe Flacco 35 New York Jets 1 $1.5M 40,067 218 84.1
Cam Newton 31 New England 1 $915,000 29,041 182 86.1

To be fair, Newton’s deal does reportedly allow him to earn $7.5M if he hits all his performance escalators, which almost makes him as valuable as Marcus Mariota, who doesn’t need to jump through any hoops to get paid. It’s a ridiculous contract, no matter which way you look at it — and Richard Sherman is right to call out just how dumb this whole situation is.

But push the money to the side, ignore how underpaid Newton is, there’s a bigger issue at play for football fans to reconcile: how do we deal with the Patriots being cool? We’re used to the Patriots being smart, but we’re not used to them being cool. The “coolest” player the Patriots had in the last five years was probably Gronk, and let’s be real: the only people who think frat boy types are cool are other frat boys. The Patriots were (are) the nerd kings of the NFL. The starched shirts. The shined shoes. The sensible, boring, business-casual polo in a league where fans want Supreme. It’s impossible to imagine a bigger shift at quarterback personality wise from Tom Brady to Cam Newton, and that’s super weird.

There’s no doubt it’s going to be fun watching Patriots fans who for years lauded Brady’s quiet, understated winning to now fall in love with a brash, overconfident superstar personality — and they’re going to do it, because Newton’s play is just that much fun to watch. Also, it’s going to be stupid fun to see what Josh McDaniels is able to do with Newton in his offense.

There’s also an inevitability to all this. Football fans who had been remotely paying attention to all this knew Newton ending up a Patriot was a question of “when,” not “if.” The idea was smart back then, it’s smart now — and we very well could be looking back on this in a year, seeing Newton put up bigger numbers in Foxboro than Brady is able to have in Tampa, and this being yet another chapter in the grand comedy of the NFL. The Patriots finding a way to come out ahead once more, thanks to the rest of the league overthinking things.

Football is, at its heart, a relatively simple game made complicated with layer upon of forced complexity, because we over-analyze the hell out of the game. In many ways the Patriots have won so consistently for so many years by stripping away this artifice: good players are good players, the rest doesn’t matter. So, while Carolina is hoping Teddy Bridgewater can become a franchise quarterback, the Patriots got and already proven one for pennies on the dollar.

Cam Newton makes the Patriots cool. He gives New England a chance to win the AFC East once again, just as everyone thought the team’s window was finally closed. If you want to keep stanning Jarrett Stidham, it’s okay, you have the right to be wrong. Newton will win the starting job easily; he’s going to prove to everyone he never should have been cast aside to be signed deep in June; and he’s going to make the Patriots something they haven’t been in a long time: fun to watch.

God help the rest of the league.

This Article was first Published on sbnation.com

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