As each quarterback falls off of the board, the New England Patriots are making it abundantly clear that they’re giving second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham the keys to the franchise.
Stidham, 24 in August, will be replacing Tom Brady, who threw for just shy of 75,000 yards along with 541 touchdowns and a career passer rating of 97.0. On top of that, the Hall of Fame quarterback delivered an NFL-record six Super Bowl titles to the Patriots franchise, making him the winningest player in the history of the sport.
It’s a pretty massive hole to fill for a fourth-round pick with just 14 yards and four regular-season pass attempts––especially since one of those resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown.
Stidham is going to be under immense pressure and intense scrutiny simply for “not being Brady,” which is incredibly unfair to a young quarterback. However, it’s pretty hard to replace a guy as highly-regarded and historic as Tom Brady––which is why it would be best for Patriots fans to roll into the 2020 season without any expectations for Jarrett Stidham.
Why? For starters, the soon-to-be 24-year-old is his own person. He’s not a quarterback that’s going to always be content on check-downs and be stationary in the pocket––he has a strong arm and can escape the pocket to pick up yards with his legs.
Last preseason, Stidham showed just how special he can be throwing the football, as well as his skills as a runner. Was he perfect? No, but he did show the necessary tools that would make for the ideal quarterback for a Josh McDaniels offense: ball security, reading defenses, and showing composure as he goes through his progressions.
What became Tom Brady’s bread and butter wasn’t taking deep shots on every play. Sure, they can be far more rewarding but, unless wide open, can also put the ball in jeopardy. Getting 11 yards on first and 20 can be far more efficient than going for 25 and ending up with second and long, or worse.
Moreover, he is just a second-year player and a first-year starter. He is going to make mistakes, much like his pick-six against the Jets in Week 3 last season.
However, when you look at this play in its entirety, Stidham makes the right decision. Yes, it’s his first read, but he also has Bolden open on the out route––he just strong-armed it over his head and into the chest of the oncoming safety in Jamal Adams.
Those plays are going to happen, and it’s a part of the learning curve that Stidham is going to face as he gets acclimated to facing No. 1 defenses every snap. What Patriots fans are going to have to understand is they’re no longer watching a proven commodity. They’re getting a kid who has yet to find his bearings at the NFL level, and he’s going to be prone to mistakes.
Lastly, the Patriots aren’t Super Bowl favorites in 2020. Pedigree and a talented defense have New England posting the seventh-best odds to win Super Bowl 55 (20/1), but they likely will be vying for the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC standings.
With Kansas City and Baltimore in their conference, that gives the Patriots time to re-tool and be patient with their young players’ development––including Stidham.
While the team is still geared to win now, they’re not going to punt on their future by putting all their chips in for a season where they, at best, are the third-best team in the AFC.
Patience is a virtue, and while New England fans haven’t been accustomed to quarterback uncertainty since Mo Lewis hit Drew Bledsoe, it’s the best way to approach the 2020 season for Jarrett Stidham.
Don’t go in with lofty expectations that he’s definitely going to be the heir to Tom Brady. That sets you up for disappointment even if he ends up being 60 percent of that. Stidham can be good––great even––and not fill the hole created by the departed 42-year-old.
Rome wasn’t built in one day, and filling a Grand Canyon-sized hole won’t be that quick either. Just sit back and let the kid develop without gaudy expectations.