The Los Angeles Chargers looked at Cam Newton but decided to move on in a move that would have changed the face of the AFC West.
There’s no way of knowing whether or not the AFC West would have ended up differently when all is said and done on the 2020 season, but looking at the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s not hard to imagine how much tougher they might be with an at-the-ready option at quarterback for a team that looks competitive at every other position.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Chargers, with Philip Rivers employed under center, were just a half step behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. The Chargers were, like the Chiefs, winning double digit games each year. They had playmakers on offense and defense and seemed to be well-coached. It was clear that the division had a thick line between the haves and have-nots. If not for myriad injuries, many experts wondered if the Bolts weren’t the better team at times.
Then last year happened. The Chargers suddenly couldn’t get out of their own way. Impact players weren’t making an impact. Miscues and mistakes. Injuries and inconsistency. Coaching moves were questioned. Suddenly the Chargers flipped the script on their 11-5 expectations to finish with one of the first several picks in the draft. Rivers was jettisoned and the team turned the corner with a new face of the franchise in Justin Herbert.
That move might pay off in the long run, and the Bolts have certainly made the investment with that belief. However, for a player who already needed developmental time at the pro level, Herbert does not look ready to go as a rookie signal caller. That means the Chargers are going to hold up Tyrod Taylor as their captain in 2020. And while Taylor might be a nice backup—certainly among the top 5 or 10 options at the position—no one is going to stay up late at night worrying about what Taylor brings to the table.
It’s interesting, then, to hear that Anthony Lynn and company actually looked at the option of bringing in Cam Newton this offseason. While Newton was himself rejected by his original team, the Carolina Panthers, this offseason as well, Newton brings with him the leadership, experience, and athleticism to strike fear in opponents. If healthy, Newton is one of the better quarterbacks in the league and certainly he’ll be playing in 2020 with a chip on his shoulder. Yet somehow it wasn’t enough for Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco:
“Absolutely, Cam is a tremendous quarterback,” said Lynn. “He’s been MVP of this league, he’s led his team to the Super Bowl and he’s healthy now from what I hear. Cam is going to be on somebody’s roster and he’s going to help somebody win a few games, but yeah, we did take a look at that, sure.”
It is true that Newton is now officially on the wrong side of 30 and a full four years have passed since Newton made a Pro Bowl. He only played in two games all of last season and the Panthers only won six games in 2018 with Newton at the helm full time. But the Panthers’ cupboards aren’t exactly overflowing with talent and the offensive philosophy of Ron Rivera‘s team seemed at odds with Newton at times.
The big concern surrounding Newton is going to be about his health. Shoulder issues and a Lisfranc injury aren’t going to help him get signed anytime soon and any team will need an in-depth physical to feel good about signing him. But when he’s ready, Newton is instantly an upgrade over one third or more of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. And for the 2020 season, he’s undoubtedly the single best play for the Chargers.
The Bolts have plenty of playmakers in place on both sides of the ball and a reason to believe they’re better in the trenches than in years past when that’s become their Achilles heel. Yet somehow they’re going to ask either Taylor or Herbert to be the keepers of this roster and take it as far as they can, a belief system more rooted in faith than fact. It’s hard to imagine how this ends up being better than taking a chance on Cam and keeping such a talented vet in the fold.