FOXBORO – Since 2014, the Patriots spent three draft picks on quarterbacks they figured maybe, possibly, hopefully could be successors to Tom Brady.
And when every one of the young bucks got their chance, they broke.
Jimmy Garoppolo made it through five quarters in 2016 during Brady’s DeflateGate suspension. Then Kiko Alonso landed on Jimmy G. and pop went the handsome one’s shoulder.
Jacoby Brissett came on in relief. He finished that game then tore a thumb ligament a week later in a win against Houston. The Patriots got waxed in their next game by Buffalo and a diminished Brissett eventually needed surgery.
Jarrett Stidham came into this training camp with a decent chance to win the starting job. And even if he didn’t do that, he at least had an opportunity to give the Patriots some optimism their future was in competent hands. He didn’t make it through the first week of padded practices before suffering a hip injury that reportedly is going to affect him for several weeks.
Stidham’s tender groin (good band name) won’t be a career-ender. He’ll live to fight another day the same way Garoppolo and Brissett did. But there aren’t a lot of “other days” to burn as the Patriots plow forward through this truncated camp.
If Stidham is limited for a chunk of time, he just won't get the reps necessary to make a case that he's ready to start over either Cam Newton or Brian Hoyer.
It will forever be ironic to me that Bill Belichick spent the past six seasons looking at Brady, checking his watch and asking himself, “How much longer?” while every fresh-face brought in to push Brady couldn’t keep pace without getting hurt.
Brady wasn’t indestructible, of course. He spent the early part of his career fighting shoulder pain. He had plenty of ankle sprains, rib injuries, chest bruises, thigh contusions and rung bells.
But in the first decade of his career, he missed 16 games with a torn ACL. And in the second decade of his career, he didn’t miss a single game due to injury.
He leaves and it's either Newton, whose seasons since 2015 have been alternately ended by shoulder and foot injuries and Stidham who didn’t even get tackled to the ground this week and is limited.
That’s the aspect of Brady that’s too often been underappreciated. The guys who reside alongside him in the “Greatest Ever” conversation weren’t even close to being as durable AND productive as long as Brady was. Not Joe Montana, who didn’t play a full 16-game season after from 1985 to 1994. Not Peyton Manning, whose neck gave out and – by the end – was a brain in a jar miraculously leading the Broncos to a Super Bowl. Not Brett Favre, whose arm was junk by 41 or John Elway, who moved like a pack mule by the end.
I know. You don’t want to hear it. Plays for Tampa now. Dead to you. I get it. And watching the team practice this week, there is no attendant drama now that Brady’s gone. It is, all the way around, for the best even if the team is diminished at the position.
But what we’re seeing right now is how the other 31 teams live, where the quarterback position is in a constant state of “Who knows?”