Will Cam Newton be able to take the same kind of verbal upbraiding that Bill Belichick directed at Tom Brady over the years?
Kyle Love, who started his career in New England before spending the past five seasons in Carolina, has his doubts.
Love spoke with Andrew Callahan of The Boston Herald about Newton’s prospects as a Patriot.
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And while Love was high on the potential for success, he mentioned a dynamic that we’ve spoken about on NBC Sports Boston recently. How well will Cam take the heat?
“This is just my opinion, but I don’t feel like Cam can take the pressure of coaches talking down about his play,” Love told Callahan. “If he had a bad game in Carolina, the coaching staff wouldn’t say much to him because they may have felt he could be a little frail about it or maybe pout. They never really corrected to the point Bill used to correct Tom.”
It’s a very intriguing point and it will be a dynamic that Newton’s new teammates will no doubt watch closely. Will Newton feel entitled to different treatment? Will Belichick be a kinder, gentler version of himself so as not to rankle Newton?
Belichick could easily write a best-seller on sports psychology and leadership. He’s got a feel for who needs what kind of coaching and when.
Newton is a 32-year-old former superstar on a prove-it contract who’s had his football life turned upside down. Regardless of the invulnerability his social media posts try to convey, there’s probably a guy in there who’s got a shadow of a doubt about how this is going to go. He’s walked across the bridge to Belichick. An arm around the shoulder might fit better than a boot in the ass as the two men get going.
With Brady, there was a method to the meanness. First, Brady didn’t come in as the No. 1 overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner. So when Belichick railed at him during his first camp, “I can’t stand it. can’t stand it, run it again! Huddle up and run it again, Brady!” Brady did it with the knowledge his chubby self could be on its way back to San Mateo.
As Brady became more accomplished, Belichick tamped down celebrity quarterback tendencies as best he could and Brady — attuned to Belichick’s worries he would go Hollywood and get soft — responded.
Belichick — knowing he had a willing target who could take the heat — would turn it up on Brady knowing the impact it would have on everyone else.
First, nobody was above criticism. Second, Brady’s response was almost always to attack back with his performance.
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Martellus Bennett recounted last May how this all worked.
“One day we were at practice and the defense is crushing us," Bennett said. "We can’t complete any passes. Sometimes they do the install and it’s just the right install. So we come into the meeting and Bill (Belichick) always had bad plays of the day and he’s just calling out Tom, ‘We have quarterbacks that can’t make throws.’
“I’m like ‘This is Tom Brady. He can make all the throws.’
"I’ve never seen coaches really call out the quarterbacks in group meetings. I sit right behind Tom because I’m the quarterback whisperer. I like to whisper in their ear when I see things. So, after we break that meeting, I go to finish my workout or whatever and Tom is in there doing dropbacks. He’s just throwing dropbacks. He’s pissed off. The next day we go 33 for 33 or something like that at practice, and from then I was just like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna be great.’ I’ve never seen anyone that didn’t shut down. He was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna show you tomorrow.’ He just picked them apart. Take this, take that.”
"He'll call out anybody," Bennett said of Belichick. "I try not to laugh sometimes because, like, the way he does it is funny to me. I find Bill to be hilarious. But he calls everybody out. That's the first team I've been on where I felt everyone was equal."
The stories are legion.
“Bill’s going to be Bill, and he’s going to let Cam know how he feels no matter what. Everybody is treated equal, and I actually love that about Bill because that let the whole team know you’re going to be held accountable,” Love told Callahan.
“Being a professional in New England is different from being a professional in Carolina. It’s a whole different ballgame,” Love said. “Bill wants things run a certain way, wants things practiced a certain way and said a certain way in the classroom and in the media. New England is not for everybody. Every player does not fit well there physically or mentally.”
Brady’s longstanding willingness to get aired out for the sake of getting aired out eventually waned. But before it did, it was frequently cited as a lesson in what it meant to play for the dynastic Patriots.
The interplay between Newton, Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and how quickly they get comfortable is a fascinating part of this preseason.
And there’s really no time for walking on eggshells.