Surprising news often leads to intense speculation, and Tuesday in New England was no exception.
After the Patriots outright released veteran quarterback Cam Newton to hand the starting job to rookie Mac Jones, many wondered what motivated Bill Belichick and his staff to make such a sudden move.
Was New England upset over Newton having to sit out five days last week due to a "misunderstanding" over COVID tests? Did Newton's vaccination status factor into the Patriots' decision to release him? Or did Jones simply outplay his older counterpart during training camp and the preseason?
As one Patriots player insisted to NFL Network's Michael Giardi, the correct answer is the last one.
Translation: Newton is a free agent right now because Jones demonstrated he was the better quarterback this summer, plain and simple.
This player's statement is in line with what our Tom E. Curran wrote Monday: that Jones had earned the opportunity to start over Newton based on his consistently strong play in training camp, joint practices and preseason games.
It's still somewhat surprising that New England released Newton instead of keeping him on as a backup for Jones, but ESPN's Adam Schefter noted the Patriots may have cut ties with the 32-year-old QB to give him a shot to land elsewhere.
"It might have been tough for (Newton) to be a backup," Schefter said Tuesday on ESPN's "First Take." "Think about a former NFL MVP now backing up a rookie, the dynamics of that.
"And so they decided, I think, 'Hey, let’s do Cam a favor here. He doesn’t have to subject himself to that. If he wants to go see if there’s another job out there for him, let him do it.' "
Jones will be the first rookie quarterback to start in New England since Drew Bledsoe in 1993, and the Patriots are putting a lot of faith in the No. 15 pick out of Alabama. But they wouldn't part with Newton if they didn't believe the 22-year-old was up to the task.