The list of backup quarterbacks to Tom Brady is long and relatively distinguished, but perhaps none of them have been as close to succeeding the legendary Patriots quarterback than Jarrett Stidham is right now.
With Brady entering free agency and speculation circling like never before that he'll actually leave New England, there's a legit chance the Patriots are looking for a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2001. Many pundits have connected them with the bevy of other free agent QBs this offseason, including Ryan Tannehill and Jameis Winston. But on Good Morning Football, Peter Schrager speculated that he thinks the Patriots will actually go with Stidham as the starter, draft a QB in the first round and see how things pan out.
It's an interesting theory to be sure, but could it actually happen? If you go back and look at what Patriots players and coaches said last year, absolutely.
Bill Belichick, never one to praise rookies and especially not in preseason, gave Stidham his mark of approval in several areas last August. Again, this quote is from BILL BELICHICK IN PRESEASON ABOUT A ROOKIE!
"“I think there were several plays that dawned all of the categories really. Quick throws where the read was clear and the receiver was open and then maybe a secondary read, and then there were a couple of times where he scrambled and extended the play. He ran a couple times and completed a pass to – I think it might have been the tight end, [Andrew] Beck or [Ryan] Izzo – but anyway, there was a little bit of everything there. The most important thing for the quarterback is not to turn the ball over, make good decisions, and throw accurately, so he did all of those at times.”"- Bill Belichick
Beyond the praise, which was also heaped on Stidham from his teammates, there's also the reality that this QB draft class is deep. Jordan Love is a prospect scouts are high on who is projected to be available to when the Patriots pick at No. 23. As Schrager mentions, Justin Herbert could also fall to the Pats there. Either could be a future star in this league in the right situation.
The fact is, whether because of injury or suspension, the Patriots have succeeded before without Brady under center, most recently going 3-1 without him in 2016 when Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett split the starting duties while Brady served a four-game suspension. With Brady going on 44-years-old and a cap hit expected to be in the $25-$35 million range, the Patriots might also want to start the next phase of their dynasty with a new QB.
Stidham hasn't proven he's ready to step into the massive shoes Brady created, but then again no one ever will be ready for that. The Patriots might want to invest their money elsewhere and figure out who their long-term QB is rather than kick the can down the road and give Brady another year. We won't know the actual answer until Brady signs a new contract, but Stidham starting in 2020 isn't as crazy as once thought.