When the New England Patriots released their first injury report of the week on Tuesday, Tom Brady was nowhere to be seen: the veteran quarterback was not listed on the report for the first time since Week 11, indicating that he is now back to his normal practice workload. While this is good news for the Patriots — the elbow has limited Brady both during practice and in games — it also means that his backups are back to being just that.
Jarrett Stidham and Cody Kessler will see only limited opportunities moving forward with Brady back in full capacity, but it sounds as if they certainly took advantage of the starter’s injury status over the last few weeks. As Patriots head coach Bill Belichick pointed out during a press conference earlier this week, the two youngsters received additional work with the starting and scout teams whenever Brady was unable to be full-go.
“Those guys are always ready to go and it’s an opportunity for them,” Belichick said. “You know, it’s hard to practice three quarterbacks, and there have been a couple examples where Tom hasn’t been able to do a lot this year. So, that’s given [Stidham] an opportunity to go with the first group, and run our plays and run our offense, and that’s been good for him. That’s given Cody an opportunity to run more of the scout-team plays because Jarrett’s not taking those.”
The Patriots’ quarterback hierarchy is clear and reflected in the practice reps Belichick mentioned: Brady is the undisputed top option, and one that was listed as a limited participant in three of the team’s last 11 practices, with Stidham as the number two behind him and Kessler a developmental depth option that has not yet been active on game day since first joining the organization in late September.
“Quarterbacks are always looking for more work. So, they’ve taken advantage of it and I think it’s helped,” said Belichick about their added practice time due to Brady’s elbow injury. “I mean, you don’t always want to do it that way. Sometimes it’s best to do things that way, and then that’s good for everybody. But, you know, we want everybody out there as healthy as they can be. That’s ultimately the goal, but it’s not always that way.”
“Certainly that’s a better scenario than having just two quarterbacks, so that then one guy has to take everything,” he continued. “Not that he can’t take it, it’s the National Football League, but mentally going from a defensive period to an offensive period, to a defensive period to an offensive period — not really the best — it’s not as conducive to high-level execution in either one. But, sometimes that’s what it is and so you have to adjust.”
Having three quarterbacks on the roster helped the Patriots better deal with Brady’s limitations in practice, without putting too much pressure on fourth-round rookie Stidham. There also is of course the added benefit of the youngsters gaining more experience and learning opportunities, even if it does not come in the form of (consistent) playing time. Belichick mentioned those teaching opportunities this week and how important they are for both Stidham and Kessler.
“When you have two quarterbacks at two different levels, from where Tom and Jarrett, or Tom and Cody are relative to overall experience, or certainly experience within our system — neither Cody or Jarrett have very much, so there’s a lot of things that you need to go over with them that honestly, you’ve probably been over with Tom 400 times,” said Belichick. “So, you try to be a little more efficient with it to work with those guys.”
“Jarrett’s been here a little longer than Cody has, but at the same time he could use the review,” he added. “Or maybe it’s some finer points that didn’t get covered the first two-or-three times. Maybe something comes up the next time based on an experience, or a situation, or something that’s happened on that play or in that scenario that wasn’t talked about earlier that brings up a question or another coaching point.”
“You just try to work with all the players, young players — it’s like that at every position, honestly,” Belichick continued. “There’s guys at every position that have a lot of experience and then there’s guys at that position that don’t have very much. You don’t want to talk down to the guys that have a lot of experience, and then you don’t want to talk above the guys that really don’t know what you’re talking about. So, there’s times you have to try to, as a teacher, bridge that.”
Belichick and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels have had more opportunities than usual to work with their young passers over the last few weeks, and until Brady’s elbow gets better — he may be off the injury report but the team might opt to limit his workload nevertheless — this could continue. While certainly not the ideal situation to be in, the added practice reps could prove valuable in the long term for both Stidham and Kessler.