Jarrett Stidham should — and most likely will — be the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2020.
But what if he isn’t?
While we have been bullish in the belief that Stidham should be tested as the starter, there does remain the possibility that veteran signal-caller Brian Hoyer could be the Patriots’ No. 1 QB when New England opens the season in September. It’s currently unclear who the Patriots regard as their “starter” even if we do know which player they want to hold that role in the future. Head coach Bill Belichick would lead you to believe there are no starters at this time of year.
Well, someone is going to take the first snap in training camp sessions. There’s about an equal chance it will be Stidham or Hoyer taking that first rep. Stidham was on the Patriots’ roster all of last season as Tom Brady’s backup. He beat out Hoyer for a roster spot during the summer and maintained the No. 2 role even after veteran Cody Kessler was signed.
Stidham should be New England’s top dog for that reason, but perhaps Belichick doesn’t want to put undue pressure on the second-year pro.
In that case, Hoyer would receive first-team snaps. The 34-year-old certainly has more experience in the Patriots’ system. He’s spent parts of five seasons (2009-2011, 2017-2018) with the Patriots and two more summers (2012, 2019) with the organization before ultimately being cut before those seasons. It’s possible the Patriots only planned to part ways with Hoyer until they got their roster in order last September before the Colts swooped in to sign him. If Indianapolis had not done that, perhaps Hoyer would have been Brady’s backup instead of Stidham last season. Still, the Patriots clearly valued Stidham over Hoyer when it came to roster cuts.
New England wouldn’t need to tweak its offense much if Hoyer came on board. The Patriots could be more creative with rollouts, bootlegs, run-pass options and read options if Stidham is the starter. If it’s Hoyer, he’ll likely be running Brady’s old offense with perhaps some simplifications.
It would be significantly more interesting if Stidham is the starter this season. The Patriots would certainly have a better sense of what they have in him prior to the 2021 campaign and beyond if he’s the guy in 2020. He’d add a jolt of youth and upside into the position. The offense would be more modernized with his involvement.
Hoyer hasn’t been awful over the course of his NFL career, however. Stidham is thought to be the riskier option with a much higher ceiling and lower floor. Is the latter really correct, though?
Hoyer is 16-22 in his career as a starter. He actually managed to lead the Cleveland Browns to a 10-6 record between 2013 and 2014, which is relatively unthinkable. He’s gone just 1-11 since 2016, however, and has lost 10 consecutive starts. He lost one game for the otherwise 7-8 Colts last season, lost six starts for the otherwise 6-4 San Francisco 49ers in 2017 and went 1-4 for the otherwise 2-9 Chicago Bears in 2016.
If Hoyer starts, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Patriots’ season turns out similar to what happened with the 49ers in 2017. Hoyer started that season as San Francisco’s starter and went 0-6 before he was benched for rookie C.J. Beathard, who went 1-4. Jimmy Garoppolo then took over and went 5-0 to finish the season. If Hoyer starts the season, recent history suggests the Patriots wouldn’t find a ton of success.
Hoyer has completed 64.2 percent of passes with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions since 2016. His 83.1 passer rating ranks 43rd out of 68 quarterbacks with at least 160 passing attempts in that span. So, does Stidham really have a lower floor? He certainly has less experience and is less proven, but Hoyer hasn’t had a great stretch since 2016.
It’s possible Hoyer could be more successful with the Patriots’ team around him. It’s unlikely that he’ll be more productive or efficient. His career passer rating is 82.5. He registered his best passer rating, a 98, in 2016 when he threw six touchdowns and no interceptions in five starts.
If Hoyer takes over, get ready for a heavy emphasis on the run game and plenty of safe passes and check downs.
If that’s how the Patriots want to weather their storm for the first several weeks of the season, they can knock themselves out. It seems to make much more sense to give Stidham the go-ahead and get as much of a sample size as possible to prove he’s the guy.