The New England Patriots have a full-blown quarterback competition at their hands that will be taking place when training camp starts. Jarrett Stidham and Cam Newton will be battling for the top spot, and the right to be the first person to start the season as QB1 for the Patriots after the Tom Brady era. Yesterday, I discussed why Newton will be the winner of that battle. However, there are arguments to be made for Stidham as well.
Reason No. 1: Plan A
The Patriots had a plan going into the offseason. They made that very clear by doing nothing to upgrade their quarterback position even after losing Tom Brady. They could have selected a QB at any point during the draft, but they did not. They could have tried to extend players, or let left guard Joe Thuney walk in free agency, if they really wanted to sign a quarterback, but they did not. Until the end of June, they did nothing to upgrade the QB position, which was a sign that Stidham was New England’s Plan A for the future.
And then, they gave a one-year contract to Cam Newton. The thing is, the Patriots handed him almost no money. They have zero commitment to him financially, and have the ability to cut bait on him whenever they want. So, while taking a player who once played at an MVP-level for little money is a fantastic business decision, it doesn’t mean New England is banking on the 31-year-old being its quarterback of the future.
This is a perfect Bill Belichick signing — a player who was once great has question marks and is available at an incredibly low cost — so the Patriots jumped on him. Sometimes those guys work out, like Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. Sometimes they don’t, like Chad Johnson and Albert Haynesworth. Newton could fall in either of those categories.
Reason No. 2: Coaching staff familiarity
New England’s coaching staff spent the entire 2019 season watching Stidham in practice. We only saw him throw four passes last season, but the coaches obviously saw much more — not only on the practice field, but in the meeting room as well. They clearly like the progress that he made last season, and think that he can handle being The Guy. You may not think that’s enough, but I’m going to trust Bill Belichick and his staff, because they have a pretty good track record.
Stidham also has familiarity with the system. Now, that system is going to look a little different than it did last season, and I know that Cam Newton is coming from a conceptually similar offense in Carolina, but it’s not the same as being in New England for a full season plus offseason. The strong grasp of the playbook, especially with a possibly shortened or canceled preseason, could really be a benefit for Stidham.
Reason No. 3: Underrated abilities
Those who are arguing against Stidham always point to two things: he was a fourth-round pick, and he threw a pick-six against the New York Jets in his regular season debut. What these arguments ignore is the fact that, at Baylor, he was considered a possible first-round pick with great arm talent. The Auburn offense he transferred to wasn’t a good fit for him, and it changed the way people viewed him as a player, which knocked him down to the fourth round in last year’s draft.
That doesn’t mean that if he had stayed at Baylor, or gone somewhere other than Auburn, that Stidham would have been a first-rounder, but the point is that there is a lot more talent there than people give him credit for. As far as the play in the regular season, it is completely unfair to judge a player on one terrible play. In training camp, he showed the quick read and passing ability that the Patriots love in their QBs. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Jimmy Garoppolo last summer in the way he made quick decisions and got rid of the ball. Again, the coaching staff is clearly pleased with his progression and ability, and it is certainly not alone.
So, there you have it. Three reasons why Jarrett Stidham could be the starter for the Patriots this season after all.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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