Jarrett Stidham, in all likelihood, isn’t the Patriots’ long-term answer at quarterback. If you watched him in the second half last night against the Buffalo Bills, he might not even be an NFL starter.
But the 24-year-old still hasn’t gotten a fair chance to prove himself. After 15 games and a 6-9 record with Cam Newton, Stidham hasn’t started a single game. Now, the Patriots are just wasting time. They need to figure out what’s sitting in their current QB room before spending big on outside options. Sooner rather than later.
Don’t jump to any harsh conclusions after seeing him go 4-for-11 for 41 yards against the Bills. It would be rash to write off a guy with zero NFL starts, and Stidham hasn’t started a game for the Patriots in almost two full seasons. At this point, he hasn’t played a single meaningful minute, never mind a starting job. Last year, Tom Brady blocked his path. This spring, we thought he could be “the guy.” But fast forward to December, and Bill Belichick hasn’t started him once since drafting the Auburn product in the fourth-round two years ago.
Instead, Belichick signed 31-year-old Newton to a one-year deal off the scrap heap and has adamantly stuck with him all year long. Even after last week’s loss to Miami – the game that officially buried their playoff hopes – Belichick announced that Newton, not Stidham, would start against the Bills last night.
This was a mistake. Until yesterday, I could understand sticking with Newton. But now? With nothing to lose but your pride against a division rival? That’s just inexplicable. Last night was the perfect opportunity for Stidham to show us what he’s got against a high-quality opponent with a long week to prepare. With all playoff implications off the table, they had no reason to keep him sidelined. Yet he remained on the bench while Newton – who isn’t a part of this team’s immediate or long-term future – played out the string until the game slipped away.
I might feel differently if Newton had shown us that he could be the starter after this year. He hasn’t. The former Panther has thrown for just 5 touchdowns in 14 games this year – the worst mark among all QBs since 1975. Five of his six worst passer ratings have been on the Patriots in 2020. And entering last night, he hadn’t thrown for a touchdown since December 6th. In all fairness, there was zero reason for him to see a single snap.
And we all saw what unfolded. Newton flopped again, and the Patriots suffered a blowout 38-9 defeat. Stidham entered the game in the third quarter and took 17 snaps. On his career, he’s 24-for-48 for 270 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
So, how much can you really take away from his stint last night? Not enough. Quarterbacks need time to develop and consistent game reps to show their true skill level. Stidham hasn’t gotten enough of either. It’s too soon to draw meaningful conclusions. The real crime is how Belichick has avoided starting him all year in a season with plenty of chances to do it.
Practice reps aren’t game reps, and his second-half stints in garbage time don’t give you the full picture. Until Belichick finally sits Newton down, Stidham remains an unknown variable. And by sticking with Cam all year long, the Patriots still don’t truly know what they have in their backup quarterback. For the last 14 weeks, Josh McDaniels has invested time and game planned around Newton – keeper plays, simple intermediate passes, and running to his strengths. Stidham’s playbook? Probably not as packed.
Newton’s gotten every break, every luxury, and every possible resource thrown at him to help him succeed this year – and he hasn’t. Stidham’s been left by the trash pile next to the stadium. Give him a full week to prepare, first-team reps, draw up a game script, and let him play out a full 60 minutes. If he sucks, OK – at least they know for sure. If he shows promise, then keep him around for next year. It’s a no-lose situation. Now that they’re eliminated from playoff contention, they need to be informed to make rebuilding decisions. That includes the QB situation.
Sure, he’s seen an NFL field – he’s taken 85 NFL snaps in total in a Patriots’ uniform. But those are garbage minutes. It’s been Cam’s show all year long, and even when he landed on the COVID-list, they turned to the horrific Brian Hoyer show in week four against the Chiefs. Newton has gotten every second chance in the world – Stidham can’t get one. Sure, sometimes life in the NFL isn’t fair. It’s still borderline irresponsible for the team to not know they have in their backup by now.
Realistically, there’s a decent chance that Stidham just isn’t that good. If he was anything special, we would have seen him earlier in the year. It still doesn’t justify leaving him with no real starting experience all year. Now, they’ll head into this offseason with pieces of next-to-useless garbage time tape to evaluate him and a Jets’ game next week that doesn’t mean much.
So, entering the last game of his second season, 24-year-old Stidham will have just one complete NFL games on which the Patriots can judge him – against a 2-13 team with an incompetent head coach and among the worst defenses in football. For a franchise now in desperate need of a quarterback, that’s almost inexcusable. And for Belichick, who has always claimed that “he’ll start the players who give them the best chance to win,” well, I find that statement pretty tough to believe seeing Newton for the past month.
Again, Stidham probably isn’t the answer to all of their problems, or any problems. But they missed a huge opportunity last night to simply be informed. If I had to guess, next week against the Jets will be the last we see of the 24-year-old for a while. I can only hope they give their next guy a better chance to prove himself.
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