The New England Patriots faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs as the first leg of a Monday Night Football double-header (but on CBS, not ESPN) last night. They did so without Cam Newton. They lost. That is not a surprise. What is a surprise is that the game was actually fairly close until the last 10 minutes. I'd call that a moral victory if one could be found in a loss.
None of that was thanks to the efforts of Brian Hoyer. We all knew the quarterback play for the Patriots was not going to be great sans Newton, their best player. But everyone heard the standard veteran QB clichés going in, even from the Tony Romo-Jim Nantz broadcast team. He's been around a long time, he knows how to avoid making big mistakes, he knows this offense like the back of his hand. Turns out all of that was dead wrong!
Hoyer, on his own, cost the Patriots six points. First, by turning into J.R. Smith at the end of the first half and taking a sack that ended the second quarter while New England was in the red zone. Then, he took another sack by holding on to the ball for several seconds longer than he should have, didn't feel the pressure despite getting hit in the shoulder, and subsequently fumbled. We won't even get into his series of air-mailed passes to open receivers in the first few drives of the game or the horrendous interception that resulted from one of those passes.
That was when Jarrett Stidham finally came in. He was not much better. This is not an article praising the talents of Stidham, but the Patriots will, in all likelihood, need one of those two to start again next Sunday when the Denver Broncos come to town. Newton could play on Sunday if he receives two negative COVID-19 tests in a row between Thursday and Sunday. If he does not, his 10-day quarantine window will stretch into the beginning of next week. The latter is more probable than the former. So who the Patriots will turn to is the big question.
I do not have the answer to that question, but consider this my plea to choose Stidham over Hoyer. Hoyer's two red zone errors are the type of mistakes that result in a season-long stay in the Bill Belichick dog house . The whole appeal of starting a vet like Hoyer is that his floor is supposed to be high. He won't win a game for you on his own, sure, but he will likely not lose one by himself either. Except that's just what Hoyer did last night!
Stidham could very well lose a game for the Patriots thanks to a propensity for throwing interceptions that has shown up whenever he has taken the field as a professional. But nobody knows what his ceiling is. It could be quite high. It could also be quite low. The variance is a part of the risk. But that risk is worth it when considering that the alternative is ... whatever you want to call what Hoyer did last night.
The strategy will be the same no matter who is starting back there with Newton sidelined. Hand the ball off, find the open man on play action, and for the love of everything do not turn the ball over. That strategy will remain viable as long as New England is within one score of its opponent. They should have Stidham execute it instead of Hoyer. The payoff is higher, and if he flops, the end result would be essentially the same as starting Hoyer.
Hoyer brings a lot to a team behind the scenes, I'm sure. The man is just no longer fit to start games. There's no shame in that, he's still getting paid. But for the Patriots, there's little to be gained and much to lose by trotting him out there. With Stidham, there is still much to be lost, but much more to be gained. Stidham could be good! Probably not, but we know Hoyer isn't good. What's the point of reminding everybody of that when Stidham is right there? I feel my case is made even stronger by the fact that the Broncos will probably be throwing out Brett Rypien as their starting quarterback again this week. The margin for error is, shall we say, significantly greater against Rypien than against Patrick Mahomes.
In summary -- Hoyer the Destroyer should be out. Long live Jarrett Stidham.