Sports fans are bound to live in an idealized world. Every year, we talk ourselves into the most outlandish scenarios. Fandom is for the maniacal, and they crave the player to overcome impossible odds.
In typical New England Patriots fashion, the idea is next man up. With the departure of the greatest football player of all time, Tom Brady, next man up isn’t exactly so simple. He was entrenched in the role for 20 years and moved the Patriots franchise into a place it had never seen before in winning six Super Bowls. The Patriots have put their fan base into a position where they can do no wrong, and it seems like everyone bought into the idea that the man they were grooming to replace Brady wouldn’t allow this team to miss a beat.
Many fans threw their hope into the next man up, and that was to be Jarrett Stidham. Stidham looked great in the preseason of his rookie year, but in typical Brady fashion, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to see him throughout the season. One play that is remembered is when he threw a pick-six to Jamal Adams against the New York Jets, one of the few times he saw action in a Patriots blow out win.
Eventually, every source was telling any reporter who could hear that the Patriots were all in on the Stidham experiment for year two… until they weren’t. New England signed Cam Newton, and from there Stidham’s shot at starter seemed in doubt. Though many in New England were leading us to believe there would be a quarterback competition.
That competition lasted about a week. What little competition was likely to take place between Newton and Jarrett Stidham is all but over. Stidham was plagued early in camp with the interception bug. It was reported on the 19th he threw three interceptions on five passes, then two on six passes the next day. Now he is struggling with a hip injury, while Newton has increased his workload every day at Foxborough. It seems like it’s Superman’s job to lose already.
The Patriots have played this game before. Earlier in the decade, the team and coaching staff had glowing reports for a young backup by the name of Ryan Mallett. He was the heir apparent to Brady in the eyes of many until Jimmy Garrapollo was available. Mallett was quickly traded to Houston in a typical Bill Belichick steal. Adding insult to Stidham’s injury is the praise Newton has garnered from the coaching staff.
“The improvements that [Newton] is making daily are sometimes (equivalent to) what you could see (from) some other guys that have been in the same system for a few years make on a monthly basis,” quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch said.
Stidham and Mallett have a lot in common. Both highly sought after recruits. Both transferred from their first gig. Both had their draft stock’s fall due to inconsistent college play. Both highly praised by the Patriots before losing quarterback battles.
The latest Boston Sports Journal report that the Patriots are frustrated with Stidham’s lack of development and the fact that his injury now sets him back. It leads me to believe the Patriots relive the Mallett situation all over again and swap him before anyone has to see him play. Longtime backup Brian Hoyer has seen plenty of reps over the years and has been the number two guy with Stidham out. It’d be a very Belichickian move to sell high on a guy like Stidham.
It could just be an early bug and maybe Stidham gets healthy and figures it out, but the overwhelming support already seems to be in Newton’s favor, and it seems more likely that Stidham fits into his scouting report of not good enough to start going forward. Maybe it is time to give up on Stidham continuing what Brady started.
Photo: (Charles Krupa – AP Photo)