Ron Rivera: Cam Newton's Release 'Did Pop Up on Our Radar'; Ryan Fitzpatrick to Start

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVAugust 31, 2021

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera watches from the sidelines during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Landover, Md. Baltimore won 37-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass

Ron Rivera coached Cam Newton when they were both with the Carolina Panthers, and the Washington Football Team head coach said the following after the New England Patriots released him Tuesday, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post: "It did pop up on our radar, but just so you know, Ryan Fitzpatrick is our starting quarterback."

Jim McBride of the Boston Globe reported the Patriots released Newton and will make rookie Mac Jones their starting quarterback.

New England selected Jones out of Alabama with the No. 15 overall pick of the 2021 draft and wasted little time giving him the job over Newton. Jones led the Crimson Tide to the national title last season and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

There was a time when Newton, now 32, was one of the best players in the league.

The Panthers went 15-1 in 2015 and made the Super Bowl in a season where Newton also won MVP. He was previously the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 and made three Pro Bowls in Carolina. At his best, Newton unleashed rocket throws downfield all while having the ability to run over or past defenders.

However, he was far less effective in 2020 and finished with eight touchdown passes to 10 interceptions a year after he played just two games during the 2019 campaign. He still rushed for 12 touchdowns last season, but he looked far removed from being a dangerous dual-threat option.

Newton was on the roster throughout Rivera's tenure with the Panthers that lasted from 2011 until he was fired during the 2019 season. However, Washington signed Fitzpatrick this offseason and appears ready to roll with the veteran as it looks to defend its NFC East crown, with Taylor Heinicke the No. 2 option and Kyle Allen the third-stringer for now.

The Football Team starts the season Sept. 12 against the Los Angeles Chargers.