Well, at least we have our answer from the Los Angeles Chargers.
Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was released by the franchise on March 24, and as of today, he’s still on the free agent market.
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Many of the teams that pundits thought could use Newton’s services have passed on the former NFL MVP, but we haven’t gotten many answers as to why.
Over the weekend, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn broke that trend, sharing with CBS Sports’ Zach Gelb the reasons why his team didn’t go after Newton, saying that although he believed in Newton’s abilities, his depth chart at QB is one that he’s happy with.
“Cam’s a tremendous quarterback. He was an MVP of this league, led his team to the Super Bowl, and he’s healthy now. Cam’s going to be on somebody’s roster and help somebody win a few games. We did take a look at that, for sure … I feel really good about the quarterback room that I have, with Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick … and we had an opportunity to get [a quarterback] picking sixth in the draft. All those decisions came into play when talking about Cam.”
#Chargers coach Anthony Lynn talks about why his team didn’t sign Cam Newton.
Full Zach Gelb Show @cbssportsradio Interview: https://t.co/QZQluYHxmqpic.twitter.com/8p2Nx4noJj
— Zach Gelb (@ZachGelb) May 16, 2020
During the offseason, the Chargers underwent somewhat of a rebuild at the quarterback position. After finishing 5-11 last season, the organization moved off of Philip Rivers, their 14-year starter who hadn’t missed a single start since taking over the starting job in 2006.
With that, many expected the Chargers to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, which they did, selecting Oregon’s Justin Herbert with the 6th pick.
Welcome to LA
With the 6th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the @Chargers select Justin Herbert, QB @oregonfootball. pic.twitter.com/MVho09Zs0o
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) April 24, 2020
Over the course of his junior and senior years at Oregon, Herbert passed for a combined 6,622 yards and 61 touchdowns, throwing only 14 interceptions in the process and leading the Ducks to a record of 21-6.
Joining Herbert in the Chargers’ quarterback room is veteran QB Tyrod Taylor, who has started 45 games over the course of his nine professional seasons, putting together a record of 23-21-1.
Many think Taylor will begin and finish the season as the starter in LA, including NFL Network’s Mike Silver.
“The offense Anthony Lynn wants to run is perfect for Tyrod Taylor right now turnover averse and great mobility. The Chargers believe they have enough talent to win with that style of attack.”
How long will Tyrod Taylor keep his job as @Chargers QB? I’m going with… all season pic.twitter.com/f2zA5qtQ98
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) May 12, 2020
The third quarterback in the room is Easton Stick, the Chargers’ fifth round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft out of North Dakota State.
So, do Taylor, Herbert and Stick provide enough positive depth at quarterback for the Chargers that passing on Newton was a justifiable decision?
Former Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings isn’t so sure.
“I think [the Chargers] made a mistake … I don’t care if Tyrod Taylor is on your roster or Easton Stick is already on your roster, and they have a rapport with the coaching staff. That means nothing when you can upgrade and you can get a better quality, proven individual at the quarterback position to run your offense. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
“If Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick & Justin Herbert were in a draft together you wouldn’t select any of these QBs over Cam. … The Chargers could’ve gotten better had they acquired Cam & given themselves a shot to potentially knock off the Chiefs.” @GregJenningspic.twitter.com/cjHCfZ98cz
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) May 19, 2020
Newton served as the starter in Carolina for nine seasons. He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 and was a 3-time Pro Bowler. In 2015, he was named NFL MVP, Offensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Pro, and led Carolina to a 15-1 regular season record and an appearance in Super Bowl 50.
The 31-year old Newton has a career record of 68-55-1 and had never missed more than two games in a season before the 2019 season, when he missed 14 games due to a fracture in his left foot.
“This is one that I’m really struggling with … I sit here and I go, ‘Are the Chargers a better football team are they a scarier football team with Cam Newton or Tyrod Taylor?’ For me, the easy answer is Cam Newton. Tyrod Taylor’s best season is in 2017, where he was 8-6 for the Bills, he threw 14 touchdowns and [2,799] yards. You mean to tell me that you don’t think a healthy Cam Newton can give you that, plus some?”
The Pro Football Focus Forecast Podcast last week simulated the 2020 season, and along with the Jaguars, the Chargers are projected as the team with the chance to win the fewest games next season.
Said PFF’s Eric Eager: “Their quarterback coach combination I don’t know if there are that many worse situations in the NFL than what the Chargers are dealing with right now, despite Cam Newton being wide open for them.”
Chargers’ schedule and question mark at QB makes them a candidate for a top-5 pick pic.twitter.com/4YjlVTP8Op
— PFF (@PFF) May 12, 2020
Few think that Taylor, Stick or Herbert are a better option that Newton at quarterback. And remember, the Panthers, according to NFL reporter Ian Rapoport, attempted to trade Newton to Los Angeles before releasing him.
The #Panthers tried to send Cam Newton to the #Bears and #Chargers. They found no takers and at this point, no starting jobs available. Release was the only option. Carolina has just $2M in dead money with this release, but Cam is now free.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 24, 2020
However, there is one voice who thinks Taylor is just as good an option if not a better option at starter for the Chargers, mainly citing Cam’s production over his past three healthy seasons, after winning the MVP in 2015.
That voice is Colin Cowherd, who thinks that Taylor can accomplish what Newton would accomplish without the “drama.”
“They want a distributor without drama. They had drama. It’s called Philip Rivers big plays, big interceptions, not as reliable. They don’t want that … Cam post-MVP is average and Tyrod Taylor … is an average quarterback.”
Last 46 starts for Cam Newton: 23-23, 65 TD, 44 INTLast 46 starts for Tyrod Taylor: 24-21-1, 54 TD, 20 INT
“Cam & Tyrod are the same guy… The gap between the 2 is tiny, and if coachability & health matters, I can say Tyrod Taylor gets the edge.” @ColinCowherdpic.twitter.com/L9ikWBoZiW
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) March 30, 2020
Newton has struggled at times after the 2015 year, a year in which he threw for 35 touchdowns and only 10 picks. In 2016, he threw 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 14 games, and in 2017, he threw 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
Over the course of his 46 NFL starts, Taylor has thrown 16 interceptions total.
In addition, dating back to his rookie season, Newton has led his team to a winning record in three of his nine seasons. The Panthers finished below .500 with Newton as their starter five times, and in his two games played in 2019, Carolina lost both.
Newton certainly passes the eye test, but if numbers are to be believed, Taylor has matched the former MVP in recent years.
Maybe Anthony Lynn is on to something.
If not, his decision to pass on Newton will be one to remember for the 2020 season.