Did the Bears make a mistake by trading a fourth-round draft choice for Nick Foles and guaranteeing him $17 million rather than signing Cam Newton as a free agent who is guaranteed a little more than $1 million with a max deal of $7.5 million with the Patriots?
There is no reason to believe Foles is anything short of 100% healthy.
In late March, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Newton had passed a physical coordinated by his agents and the Carolina Panthers, not exactly something one could expect the Bears to bet a season on.
In January 2019, Newton underwent a second surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder, and then played only two games last season.
In December 2019, Newton had a separate surgery to repair a lisfranc injury to his left foot. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “lisfranc injuries are rare, complex and often misdiagnosed.”
Newton’s left foot is the one he drives into to throw, and complications in that foot could cause all kinds of issues for him.
Newton is a great athlete and a great football player, but he is not a great quarterback.
Bill Belichick is the G.O.A.T. because he can adjust any system to fit the talent he has to work with.
Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy want a quarterback to fit Nagy’s system, and that system lives or dies with its quarterback.
Although Newton is a former NFL MVP, he is not a quality NFL passer.
Newton has completed 60% of his passes or more only three times in nine seasons and has a career completion percentage of only 59.6% – practically a nonstarter in almost any offense.
His career touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of 182-to-108 is mediocre, and his 2.7% career interception percentage actually is worse than Mitch Trubisky’s 2.3% and well behind Foles’ 2.1%
Newton has thrown more than 24 TD passes in a season only once, with 35 in his 2015 MVP season, in spite of playing at least 14 games every year but 2019. In nine seasons as a starter, Newton and the Panthers had only three winning seasons, and he was 3-4 in the playoffs with an 87.7 passer rating.
As the starter in Philadelphia, Foles was 8-2 in 2013, 6-2 in 2014, 2-1 in 2017 and 4-1 in 2018, plus 4-2 in the, ’13, ’17 and ’18 playoffs with a 98.8 rating.
The Bears were in search of competition for Trubisky. In addition to uncertainty about Newton’s availability because of his health, consider what his former head coach and former Bear, Ron Rivera, recently told AM-670 The Score about why he didn’t bring him to Washington to compete with Dwayne Haskins.
“We’ve been in this tough situation because there was a number of veteran guys that we liked, but we have to find out what we have in the young guy ... ,” Rivera said. “But until we get that opportunity to know what we have, it would have been very hard to bring in a guy who’s had such a solid career, who was league MVP at one time [in 2015], and expect the young guy to get chances to grow.”
To be clear, Rivera spoke highly of Newton and suggested he believes he is healthy, but the dilemma still is clear.
Foles has spent more of his career as a backup than a starter, so he brings none of the baggage to the competition Newton’s success would have.
Which brings us to the final point for now.
Foles has been revered as a leader and a teammate by everyone he’s played with, while Newton quite simply has not.
I am not saying Newton is a bad guy; I have no reason to believe that. But questions about his character, including various off-the-field issues, have followed him throughout his college and NFL career.
With the Bears’ hyper focus on “team culture,” Newton could have been a difficult fit at Halas Hall.
What of the extra $9.5 million to $16 million price tag?
Hopefully for the Bears, it will be a bargain if it’s the difference between a playoff run – regardless of whether Trubisky or Foles ends up under center – and another lost season.
• Hub Arkush is Shaw Media’s director of football content. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.