By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
In 19 years as QB1 of the Patriots, Tom Brady missed 19 starts. Fifteen of them came as a result of a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 of the 2008 season. The remaining four came in 2016 as the result of a four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate.
Now here we are, four weeks into in Year One AT, and the Patriots are suddenly thrust into the kind of quarterback chaos that has enveloped many franchises – particularly ones in the AFC East – for years. Cam Newton is the obvious starter, but he has already been sidelined – as he has for much of his career – though maybe this instance is a little different. (Or maybe it isn’t.) We now wonder when Newton will be back, leaving the Patriots with the most unusual of question during the Belichick Era:
Who, exactly, is going to play quarterback this week?
Last night, with America watching and Newton sidelined after having tested positive for COVID-19, Patriots quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham looked like Dumb & Dumber in the Patriots’ 26-10 loss to the defending world champion Kansas City Chiefs. Admittedly, the circumstances were difficult. But Hoyer and Stidham were a combined 20-for-37 for a mere 190 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and a lost fumble, producing a paltry quarterback rating of 43.8.
Know how bad that is? According to Pro Football Reference, it’s the sixth-worst team quarterback rating by the Patriots during the Belichick Era. Of the other five, one was the infamous Lawyer Milloy game (a 31-0 defeat at Buffalo to start the 2003 season) and another came in 2008, to Pittsburgh, when Matt Cassel started in Brady’s place. Brady had a few clunkers, too, though the last one this bad came against Indianapolis in November 2006.
Here’s the point: with or without Brady, the Patriots don’t play this poorly at quarterback. They certainly don’t possess this kind of uncertainty. And for all that the Patriots benefited from Brady’s brilliance over the years, what they benefited from most was his availability.
Of course, the hopeless optimists will point to the fact that the Patriots most recently went 3-1 without Brady in 2016. But this is different. When Brady was suspended at the start of that season, Belichick and the Patriots knew it was coming. They were able to prepare for it. Then Garoppolo went down and the quarterback play quickly deteriorated, the Patriots suffering a 16-0 home loss to the Buffalo Bills in Brissett’s second start.
It was the first time the Patriots had been shut out at home since 1993.
So, will things improve this week? That’s hard to say. Certainly, given the chaos surrounding Newton’s diagnosis, the Patriots will have more time to prepare this week than last. At the same time, it’s hard to remember a time when the Patriots went to work on Tuesday without the public knowing who the starting quarterback was, which is precisely where the team finds itself now.
Somewhere, Tom Brady is laughing his pads off.