Backup quarterbacks fall into two different categories.
The first category is players who are no longer (or never were) starter-quality. They are too old and/or too limited to entrust a team with for more than a few games. If the lead pilot passes out, they can get the plane on the ground without crashing.
The second category is developmental quarterbacks who – if things progress as hoped – can take over the team someday down the line. They’ll be less steady if the starter goes down than the guys in the other group. They don’t know what they don’t know. They may turn a routine play into a disaster. But they gotta learn sometime. And once in a while, a guy like that comes in and 18 years later, he’s the best that ever played the position.
Brian Hoyer is in the first group. He’s a Colt now and I predict that there will be a lot of wailing today about how the Patriots bungled things by releasing him on Saturday. Why didn’t they trade him? Why didn’t they keep him? What about the scout team? What if Stidham isn’t ready?
You know what? C’est la vie. You can only keep 53. At some point, the “but, but, but, what if…” hurdle has to be cleared and you deal with the fallout.
Tom Brady is 42 but, since tearing his ACL 4,012 days ago, he hasn’t missed a game due to injury. Regardless of what his birth certificate says, Brady is no likelier to be hurt now than he’s been in the myriad other years the Patriots went with two quarterbacks.
There was no reason to keep Hoyer around for added insurance that Stidham can’t bring. If Brady goes down, it doesn’t matter who the backup is, the position would go from being a strength to a liability real quick.
As for a trade, every team knew that – as a vested veteran – Hoyer wasn’t going through waivers. So why give something up when you could wait for him to be released and have your chance to make a pitch to him? He is, after all, a soon-to-be-34-year-old backup. Trading a draft pick – a potential 22-year-old with a career in front of him – for an old guy who’s mostly going to watch is a little desperate.
There’s no doubt Hoyer was a huge asset in helping prepare the Patriots for every game. When he ran the scout team, he did a brilliant job miming everything an opposing quarterback would do, from adjustments to style to how much time he’d take on the play clock. He was lauded repeatedly for his work in the 2018 playoff getting the Patriots defense ready for the Chargers, Chiefs and Rams.
Stidham’s going to have to get good at that. Stidham’s going to have to get good at a lot of things. But without Hoyer around, Stidham now goes into full immersion and – you never know – he may need it.
With Tom Brady’s contract expiring at the end of the year, the Patriots for the first time are facing the possibility of post-Brady life. Best to get the young guy fast-tracked and, if worse comes to worst, the Patriots can find a Category 1 backup to hold a clipboard for Stidham in 2020.
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