The best part of any preseason game for the Patriots came with a little less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Tom Brady left the game, never to return, never to risk an injury that might derail that seventh title.
But it was a couple of minutes later, at the start of New England's fourth drive, that things got interesting. Under center was not Brian Hoyer, Brady's top understudy of seasons past in multiple tours, but Jarrett Stidham, the fourth-rounder out of Auburn who's looked anywhere from fine to great so far this preseason.
And that was it. There was no "X amount of series for Stidham, then Hoyer." That "X amount" was the rest of them. Hoyer didn't play. Two quarterbacks. The legend and the rookie.
After the game on Boston Sports Tonight, we picked the brains of Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry as to what the development could indicate. The addition of two and two yielded that perhaps Stidham had earned the job of the, well, two.
And if that's the case, and Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels believe in Stidham as Brady's backup as they hopefully develop him into something for down the road, they've got to be considering showing Hoyer the door. And boy, you have to think that would annoy the piss out of Brady.
We all read the Seth Wickersham piece. We saw the stuff about Jimmy Garoppolo, the last "quarterback of the future," getting locked out of the TB12 facility while he tried to recover from his shoulder injury in 2016.
It's not Brady's job to like his backup. He seemingly likes Hoyer in part because the 33-year-old undrafted journeyman doesn't pose a realistic threat for if and when the Patriots figure out what to do once Brady's contract is up at season's end.
Still, to get rid of that guy and bump up the kid that's already been compared to Jimmy G? After the Patriots wouldn't give Brady the longterm security he coveted before the sides eventually agreed to a one-year restructure that would make him a free agent in a matter of months? That almost reads like a football coach's rebuttal to, I don't know, a star quarterback putting his house on the market.
It's not a stretch to imagine things have gotten snippy enough between Brady and Belichick over the years. Again, the Wickersham piece. The passive-aggressive quote from Brady to teammates about "Bill's answer for everything [being] to lift more weights."
But they also clearly recognize how great the other's impact has had on their personal success. If Brady doesn't do what Brady does, Bill's got a boat with a different name. If Bill doesn't do what Bill does, Brady's rings might fit on one hand (even if Belichick did also cost him one in Minnesota).
And part of what Bill does is to field a roster that's (deep breath) "best for the team."
Brady doesn't miss games. With the exception of one lost season and a suspension, the Pats haven't even needed a backup in the Brady era.
And this season, with a defense overflowing with talent, a draft class that -- no kidding -- has looked completely impressive needing to be squeezed in, an undrafted player at a position of need in Jakobi Meyers and a boom-or-suspension star in Josh Gordon, roster spots might be as scarce as they've ever been in New England.
So, Belichick doesn't need to know right now whether Stidham is Brady's successor. If he thinks he's good enough to be the primary backup, he's got to save a roster spot by parting ways with Hoyer. I can't imagine it would make Brady happy. But it might make the Patriots better.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.