Cam Newton began the season looking like a highly-effective quarterback. He beat the Dolphins in Week 1, largely with his legs. He gave the Seahawks a scare in Seattle with both his legs and his arm.
Then, in Week 4, Newton tested positive for COVID-19. The Patriots subsequently struggled in Kansas City. They had a week off, came back, and laid an egg against the Broncos at home.
Things were unraveling.
Robert Kraft said on Wednesday that Newton's time away from the team while on the COVID reserve list was a turning point in what was the team's first losing season (7-9) since 2000 -- something Newton himself has referenced in the past.
"It changed a lot when we were in a good place," Kraft relayed in a conference call with reporters. "Now we'll have a chance to see."
That last sentence might indicate that Kraft is expecting Newton to function as the team's starter again in 2021. Newton is currently on a one-year contract that will pay him closer to backup quarterback money, including total guarantees of $3.5 million.
That wasn't the only time the Patriots Chairman and CEO threw his support behind the quarterbacks on his roster.
Asked if the team has made satisfying investments -- financial or through the draft -- at the quarterback spot, Kraft defended both Newton and Jarrett Stidham.
"We're in a situation where we have, at this point in time, we're trying to do what the best thing for us is," Kraft said. "I think, in fairness to Cam, I'm not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year. Then he got COVID and there were a lot of things that happened.
"And I'm not sure that Jarrett has ever really gotten a fair shot so we'll have to wait and see what happens."
Kraft spoke well of Stidham at multiple points on the call.
Kraft said that he was a "really big fan" of Stidham's. He also noted how impressed he was with the "great initiative" Stidham showed in organizing workouts in California for Patriots pass-catchers that have included new free-agent signees like receiver Nelson Agholor and tight end Hunter Henry. Newton also joined the workouts soon after they kicked off.
"I think he's a great young man," Kraft said, "and I know that he's eager to compete and look for an opportunity to play . . . I'm not sure he's been tested."
As kindly as Kraft treated his two at-the-moment quarterback options, he explained that the long-term plan at the position needed to be worked out -- whether it would be Stidham or someone else. It's the most important position on the roster, Kraft acknowledged.
"One way or another," Kraft said, "we have to get that position solidified."
But as of right now, it sounds as though Kraft is OK with what the team has.