By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
In a month that's forever full of people screaming that it's just the preseason and that absolutely nothing matters (hey pal, that's life as a whole), the third preseason game has always been held in the highest regard. Considered the 'dress rehearsal' of the regular season, it's August's only week of starters and key pieces getting in for somewhat regular action.
But Brian Hoyer, the No. 2 in your program and on the Patriots' quarterback depth chart, never drew into action.
Instead, it was three drives for Tom Brady and then right to a heavy dose of rookie Jarrett Stidham, who finished with 134 passing yards on a 15-of-19 effort, for the remainder of the evening in a 10-3 final at Gillette Stadium. It was a somewhat odd decision, as Stidham repeatedly came out for drive after drive, even when the game dragged on into an offensive blackhole, with neither team putting a touchdown on the board in the second half.
"We do what we think is best for the team, take a look at everybody," Belichick said of the decision not to play Hoyer, instead rolling with Stidham once Brady departed early in the second quarter. "Brian's played a lot of football."
Now, there's multiple ways to interpret this one.
The obvious read to take away from that quote is that the Patriots know what they have in Hoyer, and that it's not necessarily a bad thing. On Belichick's roster for five of his 10 NFL seasons, there's nothing new to be discovered when it comes to the 33-year-old Hoyer. Having him play the second half of Thursday's game against Carolina's second-tier talents was unlikely to dramatically change Belichick's plans at quarterback this season. (And like we don't already know that the 2019 Patriots are absolutely skaaaa-roooo-duh if anybody other than Brady is under center this season.)
To that point, having Stidham face some stiffer competition made infinitely more sense. Again, we know Hoyer can be a borderline passable option against NFL teams (Hoyer has a 16-21 record in 37 career starts between five teams). Stidham, meanwhile, for all of the praise that's been thrown his way this summer, had yet to face such a challenge. Knowing what awaits the Patriots in Preseason Week 4 (a home game against the Giants and their assortment of future cuts and practice squaders dressed for that one), getting Stidham in this game was always a must.
It could be as simple as the Patriots prioritizing real action for a player who needs it. And given the incredibly real possibility of the Patriots carrying three quarterbacks (the mounting injuries may have pushed that to coin-flip territory), maybe everybody's safe and that prioritization just gave Hoyer an unexpected night on the sidelines. (There's also something to be said for the fact that Hoyer is close with Brady, and that the team lauded Hoyer's presence and knowledge, which could give him some significant pluses when it comes to staying with the team.)
...But history is typically unkind to Patriot quarterbacks who do not play in the realest warm-up football of the slate.
Tim Tebow did not get into any action in New England's third preseason game in 2013, played in the team's fourth and final preseason game, and was cut three days later. In 2017, Jacoby Brissett watched the team's third preseason game from the sidelines, got the start (and finish) in their fourth preseason game, and was traded to the Colts two days later. Danny Etling was a spectator in the third preseason game last year, played all of the preseason finale, and the next time you saw him with the rest of New England's main roster, he was playing an entirely different position.
The true answer in regards to Hoyer's status with the Patriots now comes with how the Patriots handle next week's preseason finale against the Giants. A game typically reserved for young guns looking to make that last impression for spots No. 52, 53, and practice squad action, Hoyer's status as an NFL veteran puts him in dangerous territory should he take the field for that contest and log anything close to significant time under center.
In fact, it would almost feel like certain death for Hoyer's second act with the Patriots.
But truth be told, that may have already come with Thursday's surprising D.N.P.