With their season effectively over after elimination from playoff contention, the New England Patriots can now use the final two weeks of the regular season to evaluate the roster and prepare as well as possible for 2021. At no position is that more crucial than quarterback.
Through highs and lows, the Patriots have kept Cam Newton as their starter at the most important position on the field. Following another disappointing offensive outing and with the team no longer able to reach the postseason, however, there is now momentum for a potential change to second-year backup Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham has already seen the field at times this year, but he never challenged Newton for the starting role as his performances were nothing to write home about. The former fourth-round draft pick completed only 54.5 percent of his throws (18 of 33) for 212 yards as well as a 2-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The problem for New England is that Newton fared only marginally better as a thrower so far this season.
Accordingly, fans are eager to see what Stidham has to offer — and two recent polls show just how big the support for him is within the fan base.
SB Nation’s latest Reacts survey showed that 79 percent of those participating picked Stidham as their starter of choice heading into New England’s Week 16 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. Those numbers are actually a bit lower than a Pats Pulpit poll posted earlier this week: 86 percent went with Stidham over Newton.
Whether or not this significant portion of the Patriots’ fan base will get its wish at one point over those final two weeks of the regular season remains to be seen. However, it does seem as if New England will reportedly stick with Newton at least for the game versus Buffalo. How much, if any, action Stidham will see during that game remains to be seen, even if he does not lead the offense from the first snap of the day on.
Fans might disagree with this approach, but public opinion has of course never faced Patriots head coach Belichick. As he famously said during the 2001 season when asked about the decision to start Tom Brady over Drew Bledsoe, he would made the call based on what he believes is best for the team.
“I know we are going to poll the coaches; we are going to poll the fans; we are going to poll the fourth graders, the barbers, we will poll everybody,” he said in November of that year. “What the polls and what all the other speculation and controversy and talk is going on that is outside of anything that we have any control over. We are just trying to get ready to win a football game, that’s it.”
While the situation in 2020 is not the same as it was in 2001, Belichick will have to make another decision on the quarterback position — both over the last two weeks of the regular season, and beyond with Newton and veteran Brian Hoyer scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency.
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