Cam Newton has been underwhelming as New England’s quarterback, but few could do much better with the talent the Patriots have on offense. Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

Since Thursday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and even well before that disaster, much of the focus when looking at the New England Patriots has been the quarterback position.

And rightfully so.

With Cam Newton’s continued struggles and the team seeming to not have any faith in Jarrett Stidham, thoughts have focused not only on the quarterback for Week 15 in Miami, but also 2021 and beyond.

There’s no question the Patriots need a quarterback. That part isn’t up for debate. They are clearly desperate, and that’s priority No. 1 for Bill Belichick during the offseason. It’s the most important position on the field, and any hope of a future revolves around the next quarterback.

In the big picture, though, if you’re looking past this season, the identity of the quarterback is merely part of the equation toward fixing the offense.

Because no matter who plays quarterback next season, whether it’s Newton, Stidham, Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, another veteran or some rookie to be named later, the results won’t be markedly different.

Not if the surrounding cast stays the same.

Patrick Mahomes couldn’t do much better with the talent the Patriots currently boast at the skill positions. Even Brady struggled during his final season trying to make this offense work.

Perhaps the offense would improve a tad with an upgrade at quarterback, or someone who can at least hit a target, or simply throw the football competently. But when push comes to shove, the same issues are going to crop up if the quarterback needs to pass to win a game.

There’s no quarterback in the NFL or beyond who could improve the team that much with the current cast.

The players in the skill positions just aren’t close to being championship caliber. It’s even debatable if any of the current receivers would be starters on any other team. With respect to the tight end position, the Patriots don’t have anyone rated in the top 50, per Pro Football Focus. As for the wide receivers, you have to scroll down to No. 25 before Jakobi Meyers name shows up. And there’s no one beyond Meyers in the top 50.

Here’s the point: How can you drop a new quarterback into the offense next season and think it’ll be a lot better if everything else is left the same?

The Patriots need to fix their talent issue before even thinking about quarterback. The roster is the bigger issue.

Maybe the Patriots can find the “next guy” in the 2021 draft and land their franchise quarterback. But he won’t be put in a position to succeed without viable weapons at the skill positions.

Beyond running back, the offensive talent is that bad.

Solomon Wilcots, a former NFL defensive back and current SiriusXM NFL radio host, agreed.

“It’s bad. It was bad (Thursday night). You can see that. They don’t have the talent to compete against a Rams defense,” said Wilcots. “The Rams have three cornerbacks that can flat out play. How are those receivers going to get open against that? None of them are going to get open, they cannot get open … . look, you can’t keep winning with the Jimmy Joes. You can’t keep getting guys like that and think you’re going to win all over the place. Their roster is deficient.”

Especially when it comes to competent wide receivers and tight ends. Both Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene played Thursday, but the rookie tight ends were virtually invisible.

Of the Patriots’ 12 possessions Thursday night, seven didn’t net a first down. Seven times they went three-and-out. It was one of the worst performances ever by an offense under Belichick’s watch in Foxborough.

Yes, Newton is awful. He’s still completely lost, hesitant and unsure of what he’s seeing, and understandably, Josh McDaniels doesn’t trust him to throw the football. But that’s left defenses to tee off on running plays.

And somehow, Stidham isn’t considered an improvement, or a better option? He can at least throw the football. Newton lining up under center automatically makes the Patriots one-dimensional.

Naturally, McDaniels fell on the sword Friday during a video conference.

“Cam has certainly been the best option for us all year long, since he earned the opportunity in training camp. And, look, whenever the offense struggles, I know the attention is always going to get turned to that position. Me personally, it’s my responsibility to put us in a position to be more productive than we were last night,” McDaniels said. “Whenever we struggle offensively and don’t score enough points to win a game, I have to do a better job.”

Maybe the Patriots brain trust is trying to spare Stidham his sanity, because it’s agonizing for a quarterback when his throwing options are so limited, and it’s all on him to make plays and put the ball in small windows when receivers can’t get open.

Brady pretty much lost his mind last year dealing with the same issue.

The view here is it’s worth seeing Stidham as the starter over the final three games, even if the Patriots aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs just yet. But again, that’s not the bigger ticket item for the Patriots.

Assembling more talent has to go hand-in-hand with getting the next quarterback.

“Cam can’t throw, but I can’t really blame Cam,” said Wilcots. “If he could throw, who is he going to throw to?”

This is another great wide receiver draft coming up. While they completely passed on the last one, the Patriots have to stop missing the boat when they do select receivers.

Either that, or spend some money on receivers and tight ends in free agency.

“They scheme some points on the board. But it’s incredibly vanilla,” Wilcots said of the offense. “When they can’t line up and put together a string of plays because they don’t have the talent to produce in that way, that’s a problem. They gotta resort to some trick stuff, or Wildcat stuff just to move the ball.”

McDaniels didn’t even try any of that Thursday night. The game plan was little more than basic against one of the best defenses in the league.

When the Patriots had Brady, he could make up for a lot of the warts. He didn’t need all-world receivers, although toward the end, he could no longer carry an inferior group.

When you have the worst skill position group in the league huddled around the quarterback, it’s not a recipe for winning football games.

While criticism of Newton is certainly justified, there’s so much more to the team’s offensive woes.


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