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Is Bill Belichick Done Developing Young Quarterbacks?

Kyle Koster
Al Pereira/Getty Images
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The New England Patriots have re-signed Cam Newton to a one-year deal, the Boston Globe's Jim McBride was first to report. It's a low-risk course of action considering Newton certainly has the ability to look like a much better player in 2021 than his first Foxboro foray, which saw him suffer from the lack of a preseason and COVID complications. NFL insiders have been rushing to be first to market with the idea the Patriots could still add a quarterback in free agency or more likely the NFL Draft. Alabama's Mac Jones has emerged as the perceived frontrunner if that is, indeed, what the future holds.

While anything remains possible, it's worth exploring Bill Belichick's motivations for this move. And when one does that, a question bubbles to the surface. Is he simply done developing young quarterbacks?

He did that around the turn of the century and ended up with Tom Brady, with whom he won six Super Bowls and shared in one of sports' greatest partnerships. Five years later he began grooming Matt Cassel into a viable NFL starter and rode him to one successful campaign while Brady was sidelined with an injury. After nearly a decade of Ryan Malletts and Brian Hoyers, Belichick did it again from 2014-2016 with Jimmy Garappolo — only to watch in anger as the heir apparent was shipped to San Francisco.

Belichick's mystique is being this inaccessible black box of football genius, a facade he conscientiously builds with each and every press conference. But paying attention to what he does instead of what he mumbles actually provides a snapshot for how he perceives roster construction. And in terms of the quarterback position, it's not starting from scratch. The one time he may have found the next Brady, that asset was taken away from his possession.

So while no Patriots fan wants to think that Newton is the one and only option to lead the Patriots this fall, there's a decent chance Belichick thinks that. What is clear is the value of Jarrett Stidham's stock, which you can find over in the bargain basement under the pile of Roku tickets. An in-house development deal is dead. An outside one could happen, but feels like a second choice if it does materialize.

Brass tacks here. Belichick will be 69-years-old in a month. They don't make them more stubborn so there's no telling how much longer he'll coach. Any other 69-year-old coach would not be psyched about expending a few years nurturing a young quarterback first to competence and then to competitiveness. And any other coach is bound to be more receptive to building through the draft in the first place, as Belichick has shown borderline indifference to the prospect for over two decades.

It's very possible everyone is overthinking this and Newton is truly seen as the future of the Patriots' franchise. That Belichick is hoping to get three or four productive years out of him as he coaches into his early 70s. If you think that's crazy, consider how stubborn this man is. Consider how little interest he's shown in turning a quarterbacking lamb into a lion. Consider how bad a taste the Garoppolo thing left in his mouth.

It's very possible Belichick is simply done with rookie quarterbacks. And quarterback projects altogether. That he's content to ride devils he knows instead of those unknown until it's time to hang up the clipboard.

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