Bill Belichick will face the most significant transition of his New England Patriots tenure this season: moving on without future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
He doesn’t sound worried.
Speaking with Rich Eisen during NFL Network’s schedule reveal show Thursday night, Belichick noted the Patriots’ previous short-term success during periods when Brady was unavailable.
“Well, we’ve played at other times without Tom,” the Patriots head coach said. “Whether it was the (2008) season after he was injured — we played 15 games with (Matt) Cassel and went 11-5 — or heading into the ’16 season with Jimmy (Garoppolo) and then Jacoby (Brissett) and Tom coming back after the four-game suspension.
“So there have been other times where we’ve dealt with that. We’ll do what we always do, which is try to prepare the team the best that we can, utilize our players and the skills that they have and put ourselves in the best position we can to be competitive and win. That’s what we always do, and we’ll continue to do that.”
No Nike appearance tonight, he’s working on the supplemental draft.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) May 8, 2020
While it’s true New England hasn’t cratered in Brady’s previous spells away from the field, those were temporary situations.
Brady missed nearly the entire 2008 season with a torn ACL but was back to full strength by 2009 and hasn’t missed a game due to injury since. In 2016, he sat out the first four games as punishment for Deflategate, then proceeded to have one of the best seasons of his career en route to his fifth Super Bowl title.
With Brady now suiting up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Belichick and his Patriots staff will be tasked with integrating a new, permanent starting quarterback for the first time since 2001. The current favorite to land that job, Jarrett Stidham, has thrown just four regular-season passes in his young NFL career, and his primary competition, Brian Hoyer, is on his eighth NFL team (and third stint in New England).
But the Patriots have shown confidence in Stidham through their personnel decisions this offseason — not selecting a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft or signing a free agent with more upside than Hoyer — and Belichick praised the 2019 fourth-round pick during his interview with Eisen.
“Stid worked really hard last year,” Belichick said. “He was our backup quarterback the entire season, and I know he’s working hard in the offseason. I know he’s made a lot of progress in terms of understanding our offense and understanding opponent defenses like all players do from Year 1 to Year 2.
“I’m sure he will get out there and be ready to go, be prepared, compete hard, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
The Patriots will open their 2020 season at home against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Sept. 13.