Patriots

Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer best-case scenario for rebuilding Patriots

Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer best-case scenario for rebuilding 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.

Benjamin Watson: 'I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out'

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USA TODAY Sports

Benjamin Watson: 'I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out'

The death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis has sparked protests throughout the United States as people have gathered to raise awareness and call for change in the fight against racial injustice.

Many athletes across different sports have been leaders in that movement, including a few right here in Boston.

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to engage in peaceful protests last weekend. Celtics centers Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier, as well as guard Marcus Smart, participated in peaceful protests in Boston on Sunday.

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NBA players aren't alone, though. The 2020 NFL season isn't scheduled to start until September, but many of the league's players have not been shy about speaking out or taking part in peaceful protests in recent days.

NFL players also haven't been afraid to protest racial injustice before games, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem during the 2016 season. Several other players have done the same since Kaepernick.

Former Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson joined the latest episode of the "Patriots Talk Podcast" with Tom E. Curran to discuss a number of topics related to the events that have unfolded throughout the nation over the last week or so.

Does Watson think NFL players will be more willing to and unified in protesting when the season begins, and will the league, its fans and the owners be more receptive to understanding those protests if they happen?

"Yes, yes, and yes," Watson said. "I think we are on a continuum of awareness, we're on a continuum of involvement of many people in different phases and spheres of life who are getting on board with this. Some people may not even agree that it's an issue, but they say, 'You know what, everyone else is doing it and I don't want to be left out.' And so they get involved, maybe disingenuously, but then over time they realize the truth of the matter. And that's great as well, even if they get in on false pretenses. At some point if they realize it, then I think the goal has been accomplished. I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out about these things."

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Watson also thinks the Patriots have done well to allow their players to speak out and make an impact on important matters away from the football field.

"And I'll say this, I was talking to someone the other day with the team, and I was telling him just that the Patriots, I believe, have done a good job in allowing their players to get involved with issues outside of the game," Watson said. "They've provided a space. There was a bill about education that came up last year, here in Massachusetts. A number of players got on board, speaking about it and talking about it. They had support from Mr. Kraft. They had support from coach Belichick to go and do those things. Support from the PR department. Other teams aren't like that, so there are varying degrees of which the organization will support and understand.

"I think the biggest thing here in Boston that I've seen is the reaction, especially of fans, when players are kneeling -- everybody can get behind education, but when it comes to police brutality and racism and those sorts of things, it gets a little touchy. I do think that there will be more of an acceptance -- there will be more involvement from other players. We've seen an outcry from players, black, white, it didn't matter, when it came to George Floyd. I've had multiple players reach out, 'I don't understand these things, give me some resources so I can read about what's been going on that I'm just not privy to.' I think there's definitely going to be a greater awareness and a greater togetherness with at least in identifying the issue. ..."

You can check Watson's full conversation with Curran in the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

Kraft family issues statement on George Floyd's death: 'We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed'

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USA TODAY Sports

Kraft family issues statement on George Floyd's death: 'We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed'

The New England Patriots reacted Tuesday night to the death of George Floyd by releasing a statement from the Kraft family.

Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody last week, which has led to protests over racial injustice throughout the United States over the last several days. 

Here is the Kraft family statement in full:

"Over the last several days, we have tried to listen, learn and reflect. We have been at a loss for the appropriate words, perhaps because there are none to adequately describe the horrific incidents of the last few weeks. It is impossible for us to comprehend what happened to George Floyd or the pain his family must be feeling, a pain that resonates with so many others who have lost loved ones in similar brutalities that were not captured on video for the rest of the world to see. We cannot begin to understand the frustration and fear members of our black community have faced for generations. Recent events have shined a light on a topic that demands much more attention.

"Our country deeply needs healing. We don't have the answers, but we do know that we want to be a part of the change. As leaders in the New England community, we must speak up. Here is where our family, and our organization, stands:

"We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed. We are heartbroken for the families who have lost loved ones, and we are devastated for our communities of color, who are sad, who are exhausted, who are suffering. We know that none of the sadness, exhaustion or suffering is new. We know it is systemic. Our eyes, ears and hearts are open.

"Our family has a long history of supporting vulnerable people in our communities and advocating for equality. But past efforts don't mean anything until we all stand on equal footing in America, so we must act in the present, and not simply rely on what we've done in the past. There remains much work to be done. We will not rest on statements, because words without actions are void. Rather, we will work harder than ever before – through our philanthropy, community engagement, advocacy and supporting the work of our players – to build bridges, to promote equality, to stand up for what's right and to value ALL people."