The New England Patriots are in uncharted territory, or the first time since 2001 they are entering a season without Tom Brady. Does Bill Belichick draft a quarterback or give the ball to second year quarterback Jarrett Stidham?
March 16th is a date that will forever live in infamy if you're a fan of the New England Patriots. Tom Brady informed the Patriots of a decision he knew he was going to make long, long before, when he met with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. On that night Tom Brady put on a show to try and make Kraft think it was a hard decision as he told the Patriots organization he was not coming back. It was such a hard decision that The Goat left bread crumbs that he was leaving, going all the way back to the spring of 2019. But, Tom Brady had been the man under center since 2001 when he ripped the job away from Drew Bledsoe, and now Bill Belichick is left figuring out how to usher in the next era of Patriots football.
The Patriots had Danny Etling and Brian Hoyer on the roster when they drafted Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Stidham projected a first round prospect heading into the 2018 Draft, but he decided to return to school for another season. He saw his stats and draft value decline as everything went to hell at Auburn. In fact, things were so bad at the university, there's a conspiracy that Adam Gase or Freddie Kitchens were coming up with the Tigers game plan, because that's how bad things got in Auburn.
New England currently has two quarterbacks on their depth chart. The Patriots re-signed veteran Brian Hoyer who has started 38 games, with a career record of 16 wins and 22 losses. Hoyer has completed 59.1 percent of his passes for 10,274 yards. With 52 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. Hoyer is an intelligent game manager who doesn't make a lot of mistakes. Hoyer was also responsible for using Rams media to learn their audibles and prep the Patriots defense for a Super Bowl victory. Hoyer is a capable starter, and an asset in the quarterback room to mentor younger quarterbacks.
The quarterback that most people have a close eye on is Jarrett Stidham. Like we already said, Stidham was projected as a first round quarterback going into his final college season. If you read up on him, you'll see many scouts and writers have said that his falling out of the first round had nothing to do with his talent level. How good was Stidham after the 2017 season? According to Peter Santo of CBS, he had Stidham as the top quarterback in the 2019 draft prior to the start of Auburn's season. After the 2018 season, Sports Illustrated said that Stidham's decline was a product of circumstance, rather than Stidham actually declining.
Jarrett Stidham's touchdown to Interception ratio was nearly Identical during his final two seasons, which is encouraging, but his yards and completion percentage dipped in his final year. In 2017 Playing in 14 games, Stidham completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 3158 yards. Throwing 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions with a 151.0 QBR. In 2018 he played in 13 games Stidham completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 2794 yards, 18 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a QB rating of 137.7. His college totals were 64.3 percent of his passes completed, for 7217 yards, averaging 9 yards per attempt, with 48 touchdowns, 13 Interceptions and a 151.4 QBR.
Speaking of 151, don't let Stidham's college stats cause you to drink. Stidham had a great preseason. In fact of all of Tom Brady's backups, Stidham had the best preseason out of them all. Here are the stats.
Jarrett Stidham: 61-90, 731 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 8.1 yards per attempt, 102.6 passer rating
Danny Etling: 20-of-38, 178 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 4.7 yards per attempt, 52.3 passer rating
Jacoby Brissett: 38-56, 387 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions, 6.9 yards per attempt, 93.4 passer rating
Jimmy Garoppolo: 46-79, 618 yards, f5 touchdowns, 1 interception, 7.8 yards per attempt, 99 passer rating
Ryan Mallett: 38-63, 357 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5.7 yards per attempt, 72 passer rating
Brian Hoyer: 29-44, 354 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions, 8 yards per attempt, 98.1 passer rating
"So, while preseason stats might not be particularly predictive of future success in most cases, those numbers basically align with the careers those quarterbacks since have had. Garoppolo has been the best, followed by Brissett and Hoyer in some order, then Mallett and Etling far behind the pack. Stidham had the best numbers while also showing the largest sample size, which is notable. The Patriots wanted to get a good look at Stidham, so Hoyer — the Patriots’ veteran backup last season — didn’t play in the third or fourth preseason games. The Patriots then kept Stidham as their backup over Hoyer, who, in turn, signed with the Indianapolis Colts to back up Brissett." - Doug Kyed NESN.
Stidham also got a huge advantage most quarterbacks don't get. He got to spend a year behind Tom Brady, he got to study the GOAT. The one positive of the Patriots employing Marshall Newhouse, Stidham got to practice with the first string against the top 5 Boogeymen defense with weak offensive line, making thing less than ideal for a quarterback. Stidham had a great connection with Jakobi Meyers in the preseason, and he was able to nurture that relationship, and build new ones with the other Patriots receivers throughout the season, while Brady was practicing load management.
Stiddy as they call him, didn't look good on the field during the regular season. He went 2 of 4 for 14 yards and a Pick six, causing the Patriots enough concern to sign Cody Kessler. No matter how much talent Stidham has, or how many excuses that can be found for his 2018 decline, the fact is he did decline and was only a 4th round project quarterback selection, that the team thought so little of, that they signed and kept a third quarterback when they had other needs. Needs like resigning Maurice Harris or Antonio Garcia.
The 2020 NFL draft was said to be a very deep quarterback class. There were at least 40 quarterbacks that looked like NFL starters after the 2019 NCAA season finished before they started declaring their eligibility. Quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Tyler Huntley and Justin Herbert sit at the top of the list. Stidham was ranked 21.5 of 40 when I compared him to the current quarterback class.
The Patriots have four picks in the top 100, and twelve total picks, with their highest pick being the number 23 overall pick. There are 5 quarterbacks expected to go in round one, and 8-10 projected to go in the first three rounds. Regardless of the round, drafting a quarterback puts pressure on both Hoyer and Stidham, but that's not a bad thing. Competition brings the best out in people.
The downside of New England drafting a quarterback is, the Patriots have other needs and would have to give up on one of them if they take a quarterback. The other downside is, it could cause a negative mentality of Stidham in the organization. If Stidham shows he's the heir to the kingdom, he could find taking a quarterback to compete with as a sign of disrespect.
The Patriots best bet may just be to run with Hoyer and Stidham. Let the two battle it out, and if Stidham wins the job and takes the Patriots to the playoffs, continue building the team around Him. If the team sucks in 2020, use the higher draft picks to trade up for Trevor Lawrence or whomever the top quarterback is in the 2021 draft. As much as I hate to sound like a broken record, the Patriots are in a win-win with the current 2020 quarterback depth chart. The only answer we don't have is, will the Patriots win the short game or the long game.