Cam Newton is a former MVP and has the highest upside among the New England Patriots’ current quarterbacks. He is, however, new to the system and may not have enough time to catch up before the season starts. Jarrett Stidham, on the other hand, is well versed in the system and loved by local fans and media alike. Despite that, it is unknown whether or not his upside can match that of Newton’s after he spent his entire 2019 rookie campaign as Tom Brady’s backup.
So, what does the team do heading into 2020?
One possibility has become the talk of town recently: “Would it be such a bad idea to use a two-quarterback system?” Even Bill Belichick didn’t turn down the idea when asked whether he would consider using two quarterbacks during his media availability on Wednesday.
“I always say that I’ll do what’s best for the team, what gives us the best chance to win,” the Patriots’ head coach said. “Whatever that is, I would certainly consider it. If it’s running an unbalanced line or a double-unbalanced line, or 23-personnel, whatever it is. If it helps us win, I would consider everything.”
Since then, it has become the favorite subject of local media — from Mike Reiss touching on it, to Evan Lazar, to Zack Cox, to Phil Perry. Even I, a man of supreme intelligence, have rattled my brain about whether or not it would work:
What are the chances Cam accepts a backup role where he has specific packages designed for him? That has to do a number on his potential future earnings as a starter.— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) August 19, 2020
As a result of all of this, I have decided to dive into how situations like these have played out in the past.
1971 Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys had Craig Morton as their starting quarterback when Roger Staubach arrived in Dallas after a five-year stint with the United States Navy. Staubach served as part-time starter in both 1969 and 1970 before head coach Tom Landry decided to go the unconventional route: he alternated starts between Morton and Staubach, before going one step further during a Week 7 game against the Chicago Bears.
The two quarterbacks alternated on every play throughout the contest. The result of the so-called quarterback shuttle? Four interceptions and a 23-19 loss. Landry decided to abandon his plan, inserted Staubach as his starter, and watched the team win 10 straight games en route to a championship.
1999 Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverine headed into their 1999 season with a quarterback platoon consisting of a former third-round MLB draft pick named Drew Henson, and a tall skinny Senior named Tom Brady.
Head Coach Lloyd Carr platooned the position for the first seven games, playing Henson in the first quarter, Brady in the second, and letting the better guy finish out the second half. Brady finished six of the seven games with a 5-1 record. Henson lost his lone opportunity to finish the game. Carr officially turned the offensive keys over to Brady in Week 8 and Michigan won out while ending the season as Orange Bowl champs.
Looking back, we all know it should have been Brady’s team from the start. Henson was given the opportunity because if he wasn’t, he would have signed with the New York Yankees and the team would be without a quarterback for the 2000 season. It ultimately worked out as the team ended up as the fifth-ranked team in the country, three spots higher than its preseason ranking at eight.
My high school football team
First and foremost, shoutout to the East Central Hornets.
Second, we used not two, but FOUR quarterbacks during my Senior season. We were 1-9.
2016 Texas Longhorns
This is the example that inspired this blog. The 2016 Longhorns replaced their 2015 starter Tyrone Swoopes with Shane Buechele. In an effort to still utilize Swoopes skillset, though, they also created a package for the senior called “18 Wheeler”.
The package featured nearly 3,000 pounds worth of blockers and was designed to use the 6-foot-4, 250-pound quarterback in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He ended the season with 174 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. The team wasn’t very good (it went 5-7) and Swoopes was never going to be a full-time starter. With a starting option better than Buechele, however, could something like this really work? Which brings us to...
2020 Patriots (?)
If Stidham wins the starting job, you would have to assume the Patriots would want to use Newton in some capacity as well to take advantage of his elite skillset. An approach like the Longhorns’ might therefore be perfect for both. In goal-line and short-yardage situations you could have a tank like Newton pick up the few yards that are needed, and he could even come in and take a shot down the field every once in a while.
So far through training camp it looks like Stidham has a slight edge in the competition for the starting role, and if things continue to trend in that direction it may indeed be beneficial to platoon quarterbacks.