New England Patriots fans mentally divorced themselves from Cam Newton’s one-year tenure as soon as Week 17 wrapped, only to be shocked a few months later when reports of his departure turned out to be premature.
Turned out there was no handshake. There was no mutual decision to part ways. There was only…another agreement, met with crossed fingers throughout the New England region.
One free agency frenzy later, and the Patriots appear to be bringing a stacked defense and a monstrous tight-end set to the field in 2021 with an apprenticeship developing under center.
The Pats’ roster makeover leaves them somewhere between contention and a bridge year, but are they making a mistake naming Newton the “starter”? Is there a higher ceiling with Mac Jones from Week 1?
For now, all we have to rely on are the simulations, and Strat-O-Matic’s full 18-game simmed seasons featuring both QBs prove there might not be that much of a difference.
On paper and at full health, at least.
Simulated 2021 New England Patriots seasons tell us the QBs are…equal?
According to the helpful robot, the Patriots’ current roster would finish 10-7 with a fully healthy Newton, and 9-8 with the rookie Jones taking over the ship Week 1. Newton racked up 3,654 passing yards in the simulation, while Jones secured 3,665.
Clearly, those extra 11 yards were accrued in garbage time of Jones’ additional loss on a dump-off no one will ever remember.
Outside of that 17-game season looking jarring and like something we’ll never get used to, this thought exercise taught us that:
- With a few breaks, the Patriots could absolutely be very good in 2021 and exceed their projected win totals.
- The Patriots’ roster is constructed well enough that a caretaker rookie quarterback and a mid-tier veteran could pilot it to very similar places.
- The Patriots should stay the course and let the rookie learn the ropes from Newton, in that case.
This exercise does not exist to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Patriots will wind up in the middle of the pack in 2021, no matter what path they choose.
The point, instead, is that New England has an excellent baseline to build on, and with adept coaching can attempt to steal the type of close game the computer can’t comprehend. If the entire team peaks, these numbers will skyrocket.
A QB controversy should be the least of the staff’s concern, though, and initial plans for Jones to redshirt seem wise. Regardless of leadership, this team is in good hands.