For the first time in 27 years, the New England Patriots have a big ol’ question mark at the most important position on a football field.
Seriously. New England’s quarterback depth chart currently looks like this after Tom Brady announced the conclusion of his Patriots career:
It’s entirely possible Stidham could be the Patriots’ next starting quarterback. We’ve been told the Patriots love him. He had a great preseason and training camp, and showed some very special skills during his college career at Baylor and Auburn. But he’s also young and only entering the second season of his NFL career after being selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Only the Patriots know how good he can be. And even they don’t have the benefit of seeing Stidham play meaningful snaps in a game that matters.
Or it could a litany of other options with Andy Dalton, Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton and a number of other quarterbacks on the table. The Patriots have limited salary cap space but still a lot of outside options to add at quarterback with Brady gone. Only Case Keenum, Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill and Drew Brees have been scooped up so far.
But there is uncertainty at quarterback for the first time since the Patriots selected Drew Bledsoe first overall in the 1993 NFL Draft. And it’s totally understandable and justified to be worried.
For the past 19 seasons, regardless of which other players and coaches were on or off the team, there was reason to be confident in the Patriots because Bill Belichick was the head coach and Brady was at QB. Now, no one knows. Without that tandem, anything could happen in New England next season.
Maybe Stidham, Dalton or Bridgewater leads the Patriots to a Super Bowl championship. That would be quite a win for anyone who’s Team Belichick over Team Brady. Or maybe the Patriots go 2-14, and then select Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson in the 2021 NFL Draft. That, in turn, would be quite a victory for the Team Brady folks. Anything and everything is possible, and that’s probably pretty scary to some Patriots fans.
To make matters more uncertain, no one knows when the Patriots will hold another practice. The offseason workout program has already been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. No one would be surprised if COVID-19 wound up canceling OTAs and minicamp altogether. It’s possible even training camp and the preseason could be truncated over concerns.
That’s not a great situation for Stidham or some other new quarterback option to enter into. At least Stidham has experience with Patriots receivers like Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu and Jakobi Meyers. A new QB would have very little to none.
Listen, we’re not telling anyone to panic, set your Patriots gear ablaze and pick a CFL team to root on. We’re simply being realistic. For almost 20 years now, the Patriots have been the steadiest franchise in professional sports because they had their head coach and quarterback shored up. Now, one of those elements is gone, and there’s no sure-thing to replace him.
The 2020 season will be a fascinating one in New England whenever it begins.