Patriots

Patriots

It musta been in the Andy Dalton Phase of Tom Brady’s long goodbye.

That dizzy time when chatter about The Red Rocket possibly being Brady’s successor was the latest hunk of speculation hurled against the wall. It stuck for a bit. Not because it was fact-based, but because it was a name people had heard of.  

I’m not sure who Patient Zero was with that rumor.

I do remember getting strong, “That’s not gonna happen,” signals from Foxboro when I asked about non-Brady plans.

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The Patriots, I was told, wouldn’t be pursuing a mid-tier veteran quarterback — Dalton, Marcus Mariota, Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater — you name it.

Which meant the plan was Jarrett Stidham. The Patriots haven’t wavered. It appears on March 22 that it is Stidham’s job to lose.

Personally, I like it. No reason to spend through the nose for mediocrity, which is what I said last week on Twitter:

Pay Dalton $8M or whatever (I truly have no idea) to come in and put his hands at 10-and-2 and drive the car in the slow lane for four months? What’s the point?

And honestly, what’s the point for Dalton? If you were him would you want to spend your whole career in Cincinnati then — when the Patriots roster is ripped down to the studs and there’s no tight end and their best target by far is 34-year-old Julian Edelman and their legendary line coach left — come to Foxboro? That’s like showing up for midnight in Times Square on January 2.

 

The Patriots of 2020 are going to do what the Patriots of 2000 did without — most likely — the 5-11 record.

They are going to get right with the salary cap. No more eating out. Pay down the credit cards. Don’t make any panic purchases.

Say goodbye to expensive veterans even though you love ‘em (we’ve seen that since last Wednesday).

Break the outrageous cold snap of the past five drafts in which a grand total of two players were selected that opposing teams would actively covet as upgrades or showing great promise (Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason). Maybe four if we add Isaiah Wynn and Stidham.

The Patriots right now are probably not an attractive landing spot to prospective free agents. After being the organization that chose YOU rather than you choosing them, the appeal is not there.

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The 2019 Patriots got their collective ass handed to them by the best in the AFC — the Titans, Ravens, Texans and Chiefs — and one of the conference’s worst in a must-win game (Miami). The 2018 Patriots lost to five non-playoff teams in the regular season. The arrow is not pointing up. Tom Brady left. Players around the league are bound to have noticed.

The Patriots at least got something in return for living beyond their means — five Super Bowl appearances, three wins and AFCCG appearances eight years running was a good time.

But tomorrow is here and some bills have come due. They were stealing from Brady for most of his career here, but they still got stuck with a bill in the form of the $13.5M in dead money.

It’s clear to me that Bill Belichick intends to deal with it immediately and not have a slow process for the sake of appearances. If that means the neighbors talk because the Patriots went from a Lexus to a Prius, let ‘em talk.

As for Hoyer and the notion that he’s coming here to compete for the starting job? If it comes to that in September, something went sideways.

And the potential is there for that. The biggest leap an NFL player will make is between his first and second seasons. We are told that time and again — and it’s when Brady, in the eyes of the Patriots coaching staff, became viable as a Drew Bledsoe replacement in 2001.

 

With a pandemic throwing all ability to prepare normally out the window, there’s no question Stidham’s development is going to be less than it would have been otherwise. How much less? Will there be OTAs? Passing camps? Mini-camps? Will training camp begin on time? Can Stidham get together with Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers to start building rapport and becoming their leader?

The Colts signing Philip Rivers — it will be forever a blight on them that they thought he’d be a better option than Brady — was the best thing that could have happened for the Patriots. It made Hoyer expendable and delivered him to the Patriots door.

Remember, Stidham didn’t exactly “beat out” Hoyer on the field last summer. Hoyer played well in camp and in the preseason. Releasing him wasn’t a matter of Hoyer vs. Stidham but Hoyer vs. Whoever Else Was At the End of the Roster. Gunner Olszewski or someone.

Part of the risk of playing a first-time starter is that everything’s on the table. Could throw for 420. Could throw four picks by halftime. In Jimmy Garoppolo’s sixth quarter as a starter — in his third year in the league — everything was going great but he wasn’t smart enough to get rid of the ball before Kiko Alonso turned him into roadkill. That was inexperience and brought on a real rookie in Jacoby Brissett.

Don’t be surprised if Belichick is very much tempted to err on the side of caution with Stidham if this offseason is ruined by the pandemic.

Replacing Brady is going to be hard enough. Replacing him with reduced prep time and a fleet of “meh” receivers and tight ends? That’s not putting him in a position to succeed.

Let Hoyer be the crash-test dummy behind the post-Scarnecchia offensive line.

Defense. Running game. Special teams. Situational football. A “happy to be here, just tell me what you need, Bill!” guy at quarterback all for $25M less than Belichick would have had to pay Brady? With a strong-armed, smart but not-totally-ready kid behind him?

That’ll work. For 2020, that will work. That will most definitely work.