I'll just get to it: The Patriots should start Jarrett Stidham against the Jets.
New England being 2-5 isn't Cam Newton's fault and Stidham in all likelihood won't give them a better chance to win, but they should start Stidham.
You think Stidham's bad. I think Stidham's bad. These are just thoughts, though, based on his relief work in the second halves of games. Give the kid an actual week of first-team reps, then let him play against the worst team in the league to see if he can at least handle that.
Then, based on how he fares, re-evaluate the starter going into the next game against the Ravens.
The Patriots are in all likelihood not making the playoffs -- playoffstatus.com gives them a nine percent chance -- though they could make it interesting with a run. At 2-5, however, you're closer to a top-10 pick than you are to the postseason, so just steer into skid. If the draft were tomorrow, the Pats would pick ninth. Go where you're going, get the pick and pray like hell it gives you a new on-field face of the franchise.
Newton probably can't play well enough to win the Patriots the division or grab a Wild Card spot. He might be able to get the Patriots a win or two they might not otherwise get, however, and what good does that do in a lost season? If you truly want to figure out your quarterback situation, use the here and now to evaluate what Stidham looks like for four quarters.
And not to suggest the T-word for the Patriots' season (I kind of am), but if Stidham is especially bad, maybe the hapless Jets end up getting a win off the Patriots, hurting their chances at the first overall pick and at least increasing the incredibly low odds of it being in play for New England.
Of course, you have to factor in the potential side effects of losing. If the Pats are terrible this season, will a 31-year-old Dont'a Hightower or a 34-year-old Patrick Chung want to return after missing this season? Will the McCourtys say "eh, that's enough" and bounce?
Those are valid concerns, but it's possible that if the Patriots stick with Newton the rest of the way, they finish with a crap record anyway. The damage might be done when it comes to players who could be on the fence about being a Patriot in 2021.
Then again, Bill Belichick was in for a busy offseason anyway, and not just in the draft. According to Spotrac, the Pats have the fourth-most cap space in the league for next season, so Belichick could go have himself another 2007-style spending spree in the offseason should he want to.
I feel for Newton and don't blame him one drop for this season. Has he played well? No, but the Patriots asked a free agent on the veteran minimum coming off a lisfranc injury to carry an offense led by a broken Julian Edelman and missing its right tackle. Sure, he's stunk, but the Patriots were ambitious to count on him to begin with.
Or maybe Belichick wasn't counting on Newton. Maybe he knew this roster was one of the worst in the league and that this would be a year in which the Patriots reset a few things.
Whether or not he thought that, that's where the Patriots are now. They can stick with Newton, get a free win against the Jets and learn nothing, or they can get a more legitimate look at Stidham, then reassess.
The easy move is to stick with Newton, but if they have even one drop of confidence in Stidham, now is the time to give the kid a look.