For the first time in 19 seasons, Patriots fans are asking themselves the most critical question in football: who will start at quarterback?
The well-advertised departure of Tom Brady for Tampa Bay has probably left the biggest shoes to fill in football history. Three quarterbacks have a legitimate chance of vying for the starting spot between untested Jarrett Stidham, newly signed Cam Newton and veteran Bryan Hoyer.
By default, most may lean toward Newton leading the Pats and rightfully so. The former Heisman Trophy winner and MVP of the league certainly warrants that conversation. But if you are Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick, the only right answer is Stidham.
With the 133rd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Pats took Stidham. The fourth-round selection alone should say something about how the Patriots feel about the Auburn graduate. When your starter is Tom Brady, selecting a quarterback in the fourth round means the organization must see something they like and can tap into and use in the future.
The Patriots have more to lose by not playing Stidham based on where they took him in the draft. Former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo was selected in the second round in 2014, and obviously, the Patriots hit on that pick.
They also hit on taking Jacoby Brissett in the third round in 2016. Both of those guys started and succeeded with the Patriots. Now they are thriving with new organizations, so the same stands to be reasonably true with Stidham.
Stidham was immediately the second-stringer after being drafted and has been learning the Patriot way ever since his selection. The organization needs to see what he can do first, as the starter for the 2020 season, before they say he isn’t the future of the franchise. Cam Newton is proven as a great quarterback in the league.
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However, limiting Stidham and not letting him experience the NFL in every way could be a costly mistake that could hurt the Pats for a long time. At the very worst, he is benched for Newton and has another year to learn and retry potentially. It would be a mistake to not at least put Stidham out there.
Aside from his current standing with the team, Stidham’s health and age are key factors to him being the starter. Newton has long dealt with injury since he arrived in the NFL. Frequent concussions and shoulder injuries have plagued the 31-year-old.
While those are not entirely his fault, but rather a result of inconsistent players around him and his mobile style of play, Stidham has no track record consistent with injuries and is only 23.
If you start Newton and he reinjures his shoulder, Stidham would be the next guy up, and at that point, The Pats might as well play Stidham, to begin with. The untapped talent and clean history are two huge aspects of Stidham that make him the clear choice to be the starter.
The Patriot system is not something one can learn overnight, and the track record shows that those who are in it the longest, succeed the most, and that would point directly straight to Stidham.
While the season may seem like eons away, it is approaching fast. There is no telling what the Patriots will do, there never is. But one thing is almost certain; an Auburn grad will be the starter for the New England Patriots.
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