By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots don’t just have a starting quarterback position to fill. It’s not nearly that simple.
Whoever is under center for New England come Week 1 will forever have the label of “the guy who came after Tom Brady.” Every move, every decision, every comment will be put under a magnifying glass. The phrases “Tom Brady could have done _____” or “Tom Brady would have done _____” will likely trend in New England all fall.
Whoever takes that snap next season is going to already be under immense pressure and scrutiny, as much or perhaps even more than a first-overall pick. The worst thing the Patriots can do is add insecurity about the stability of the job before that snap even happens.
While plenty of fan plans call for the Patriots to hold an open competition for the spot, that’s the last thing they should do. Whether it’s Jarrett Stidham or a first-round draft pick (and those feel like the only two real options right now), that guy needs to be assured it’s his job to start the season.
Stidham isn’t as unrealistic of a plan as some people may think. The Patriots used a fourth-round pick on him in 2019 which isn’t a nothing investment, especially when you consider who else was on the board at the time. He showed promise in the preseason and defensive players have raved about his ability leading the offense (first team and scout team) during practices last season.
In order to get the best return on their investment, it would behoove the Patriots to give Stidham as much help as they can. That means allocating both draft picks and cap space to improving the roster around him.
For instance, using a third round pick on a guy like Jake Fromm, who feels pretty redundant to Stidham as a player, doesn’t help them nearly as much as using that pick on a pass catcher or to improve their pass rush. Instead, a pick like that would create a situation where they have to developmental quarterbacks of about the same skill level, without the ability to develop either one primarily. Keeping Stidham looking over his shoulder will only handcuff him.
(That’s not to say the Patriots can’t stick with their yearly plan of taking a QB. Taking a truly developmental guy like James Morgan on Day 3 as a potential future backup wouldn’t be a horrible idea.)
You’ll hear people say “he needs somebody else in the locker room to push him.” In some cases, that may be the case, but the label of “Brady’s replacement” should serve as enough of a motivator in this case. If not, he’s not the guy anyway, and it’d be figured out quickly.
Of course, there are reasons the Patriots were able to grab Stidham in the fourth round. He’s still pretty raw as an NFL passer, and he doesn’t have the ceiling of some other college products. If the Patriots choose to be aggressive at the position, they could grab a passer in the first round and build around him.
If that’s the route they take, they need to make sure that player knows he’s the established starter. Build around his strengths and style. They could even go as far as moving Stidham for a draft pick and keeping Brian Hoyer as the backup. The problem is, this path is much harder to predict given it likely would involve them trading up.
So unless Bill Belichick trades up in the first round to grab a guy like Justin Herbert or Jordan Love, Jarrett Stidham is the guy. Can the Patriots do enough to help him become more than just “the guy after Tom Brady”? That’s the question that’ll surround the Patriots all season.