Newton won't join the Bills, but nearly did in 2011

A look back at how close Cam Newton came to becoming the face of the Bills

Louie DiBiase
April 09, 2020 - 3:55 am
Cam Newton

Photo: Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane touched on the future of his former quarterback during his time with the Carolina Panthers in Cam Newton on Tuesday, saying it isn't likely Newton could end up in Buffalo like many other former Panthers have. The organization is committed to building around Josh Allen and don't appear to be open-minded about his starting position being available at all. 

There was a time, however, nine years ago when Newton almost became the face of the Bills for, what could have been, a very different looking decade for Buffalo. 

Back in 2010, before the days of a competent regime running the franchise, the Bills were 10 years into their playoff drought, and had found themselves at the bottom of the league at the halfway point of the season with an 0-8 record.

Chan Gailey was in his first year as head coach, rolling through the abysmal quarterback carousel of Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick. There was, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. The 2011 quarterback class in the NFL Draft looked like it would have multiple "generational" talents in Stanford's Andrew Luck and Newton, who was playing at Auburn. The Bills were in prime position to land at least one of those talents. 

But having the supposed choice wasn't guaranteed. Carolina was right there in the hunt for the first overall pick. The Panthers were 1-7 after eight weeks and then their season tail spun even more with a seven-game losing streak ensuing. 

While the Panthers continued to get blown out week-after-week, Buffalo suddenly found themselves on a bit of a hot streak. From Weeks 10-15, the Bills won four of six games. Even with two straight losses to close out the season, they played themselves out of the first overall pick with a .500 second half of the season. 

To make things worse, around the time of the Bills' winning ways, Luck decided he would not declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, returning to Stanford for his red-shirt junior season.

This left just Newton as a top prospect. 

After completing his historic season at Auburn, which saw him winning the Heisman Trophy and the BCS National Championship, it made the decision pretty easy for Carolina a few months later. They moved on from their second round rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen without blinking an eye.

The Bills fell to the third overall pick and had to settle for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. 

One has to wonder how different things could have been if the Bills... embraced the tank (if you will). Take away two of those meaningless wins and Buffalo would have overtaken the Panthers for first overall with a stronger strength of schedule.

Newton almost certainly would have been playing in blue and red after that. Multiple reports suggested former general manager Buddy Nix and Gailey had legitimate interest in Newton. The organization's late owner Ralph Wilson spoke about his desire to upgrade the quarterback position for months before the draft. 

Considering Newton's success in Carolina with little around him on offense, it is fair to say the Bills' level of success from 2011 to 2020 would have been very different. The Panthers didn't surround him with legitimate weapons until his final few seasons. He won the league MVP honor after taking a 2015 offense featuring Ted Ginn Jr., Corey "Philly" Brown, and a very seasoned Jerrico Cotchery at wide receiver all the way to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance.

Give him an organization that could surround him with players like Stevie Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, and Robert Woods? It would have worked. 

The fit of Newton and Gailey's spread offense actually could have been a really good fit too. 

With the possibility of a lot of winning coming down the road, who knows how long that regime could have lasted thanks to their new star signal caller. Who knows if Beane and McDermott ever get hired, and who knows if they even consider taking another quarterback like Allen. 

As Beane said, Newton's days as a starter shouldn't be over. In 2018 when he was last healthy, the Auburn product was having his most efficient season as a passer, leading the Panthers to a 6-2 record. The injuries he suffered were serious, but this is a player who is just 30-years-old and didn't miss games for the first eight years of his career. 

The veteran deserves a chance to lead an offense again. Maybe it will be Gailey's in Miami, but the days of Newton possibly being the face of the Bills is likely over.

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