While 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham is the current frontrunner to be the Patriots’ next starting quarterback, New England does have other options.
The Patriots could add Andy Dalton, Cam Newton or Jacoby Brissett via trade (or wait until Dalton or Newton are released) to replace Tom Brady. They also could sign free-agent quarterbacks Blake Bortles, Jameis Winson or Joe Flacco. Finally, the Patriots’ current backup quarterback, Cody Kessler, does have starting experience.
As a Patriots transcript hoarder, I can show you what Patriots head coach Bill Belichick thinks — or will say publicly — about all of these options.
JARRETT STIDHAM, 2019
“Yeah, good. Jarrett is a smart kid. He picks things up very quickly. He has a good grasp of the offense given where he is in his career. He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him. In practice, he does a good job. He gets a lot of passes on our defense and when he has the opportunity to get the offensive snaps, he’s prepared and does a good job of those. But you know, it’s always different in the game. I think he’s doing all he can do.”
Analysis: That’s actually pretty high praise for a rookie in the system. Belichick later called the rookie, “Stid” while answering a question about how Brady’s injuries gave way for other QBs to take throws in practice. We think he likes him. He already has a nickname.
ANDY DALTON, 2019
“Obviously, the quarterback Dalton’s a very experienced guy. He’s led this team to a lot of victories, a lot of comeback victories — excellent quarterback.”
Analysis: Belichick was short on Dalton before the Patriots took on the Bengals in 2019, but he did drop the E-word. Keep in mind, Belichick did once call Bryce Petty “impressive,” which might actually be the craziest quote an NFL press conference has ever produced. You will not find Bryce Petty on this list.
BLAKE BORTLES, 2018
“He’s got a very high rushing average. When he carries the ball, he carries it productively whether that’s to scramble or on designed runs. He throws the ball efficiently like he did in the Pittsburgh game. He makes good decisions. He’s a big, strong tough guy that’s hard to bring down, hard to tackle. He’s got a lot of good receivers, good tight ends, good backs. He’s got a lot of weapons. A good offensive line. Offensively, as an entire unit they are very productive and they are very well balanced. He makes it all go. He’s the trigger man that makes it all happen. They do a good job.”
Analysis: Belichick has praised Bortles’ rushing ability over the years but never has much to say about his passing prowess. That might just be telling. Maybe Belichick will sign Bortles and move him to tight end.
JAMEIS WINSTON, 2017
“Good. Look, good quarterback, very good arm, accurate, gets the ball to all of his receivers, uses the tight ends well, the receivers well, strong, can stand in there against the rush, moves well in the pocket to create a little extra time. He’s a hard guy to tackle, hard guy to bring down. He can throw the ball with people hanging all over him and he can throw it accurately and throw it pretty far, too. He stretches the field on you, sideline to sideline, vertical passer, five-thousand yards the last two years offensively, 50 touchdowns. They’ve had a lot of production on offense in two years. Coach (Dirk) Koetter has done a great job with him. He’s done well. For a guy in his third year, he’s had extraordinary production. Not many guys that have more than he has and we’ve had some pretty good quarterbacks.”
Analysis: Belichick definitely praises Winston, but he focuses a little more on his raw production than, say, his decision-making.
CAM NEWTON, 2017
“I think when you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decisions — I mean, I would put Newton at the top of the list. Not saying that there aren’t a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say, of all the guys we play or have played recently in the last couple of years, I would definitely put him — he’s the hardest guy to deal with. He makes good decisions, he can run, he’s strong, he’s hard to tackle. He can do a lot of different things, beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game down there in ‘13, so I would put him at the top of the list. Not saying the other guys aren’t a problem, because they are, but he’s public enemy No. 1.”
Analysis: This is legitimate praise. Any time Belichick puts any player at the top of a list, he’s being genuine.
JACOBY BRISSETT, 2017
“Well, it’s a work in progress. We’ll see. We’re a little over a week into training camp — 10, 11 practices — so we’ve got a long way to go. We’ll see.”
Analysis: Uh, yikes. So, that was when Brissett was on the Patriots in his second training camp. After Brissett was traded, Belichick was asked what went into the decision. His answer: “To acquire Dorsett.”
Belichick did have more to say about Brissett in 2016 when the QB was a rookie:
“I think he handled himself great last week, this week, all week, every day. He’s done nothing but come in here and work as hard as he possibly can — when we had three quarterbacks — to take his opportunities and learn from the other two guys, when it was him and Jimmy (Garoppolo) and then this week it was pretty much all him. He’s just a hard-working kid that is really dedicated to doing what’s right for the team and trying to improve on anything that you tell him. He just wants to do what the coach tells him to do. I’m glad we have him.”
Great guy. Maybe we’ll find out what Belichick thinks of him as a quarterback if Brissett ever starts against the Patriots.
JOE FLACCO, 2016
“We’ve played him quite a bit. It seems like he always plays well against us, so I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a good football player and he’s been pretty good. Don’t forget, he took them to the Super Bowl championship.”
Analysis: Is Joe Flacco elite? Not really sure what to read into this other than Belichick respects quarterbacks who win Super Bowls. It’s not an easy feat.
CODY KESSLER, 2016
“I mean he runs their offense. I don’t think there’s been a big change in their offense. Kessler had a good career, a very productive player in college in a passing offense. Threw the ball well, he’s athletic, he can definitely buy time in the pocket with his feet, with his quickness. He’s an accurate passer, he throws the ball well short, intermediate and long. Can move out of the pocket, again, on some bootleg plays and scramble and that kind of thing. He has done a good job for them. He’s handled their offense. Again, they do a number of different things; shifting, motion, change formations, things like that. He obviously can handle all of that. They keep doing it and they give him some checks at the line of scrimmage. It looks like he gets them into the right play based on what the defensive looks are. He protects the ball pretty well. He has done a good job for them.”
Analysis: This was from when Kessler was a rookie on the Browns. Not a lot of effusive praise, but it was enough to get Kessler signed last season.