The call for Jarrett Stidham has grown louder over the last few weeks. But is Bill Belichick listening?
Starting quarterback Cam Newton has struggled mightily in the Patriots' passing game over the past three weeks, averaging just 90.7 yards per contest with one touchdown pass and three interceptions.
New England won two of those three games thanks to strong defense and special teams play, but Newton's shortcomings as a passer clearly held the team back in last Thursday's loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
So, if Newton can't throw the ball, why isn't Stidham getting more run? The third-year QB took 14 garbage-time snaps against the Rams, but should he see more action -- or potentially start down the stretch?
That depends on how much confidence the Patriots have in Stidham. Our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran offered some educated insight on that subject during the latest Patriots Talk Podcast alongside Phil Perry.
"My opinion is now much more informed now than it was then: Stidham, in the eyes of the team, was a relief pitcher on Thursday," Curran said. "They weren't disgusted with Cam; they more or less felt as if they had had enough. So, Bill went to the mound, asked for the ball, gave him a pat on the butt, put it in Stidham's glove and said, 'Finish it up for us. See how you do.'
"And he didn't really do anything with it. He did nothing to change their estimation of him as a competitor or a quarterback. And really, it's status quo. ... They're just begging him to have his 'Jimmy (Garoppolo) against the Kansas City Chiefs' moment, and he continues to not have it. Hence, it's Cam. And in my opinion, it should be."
Stidham has appeared in four games as a "relief pitcher" this season, completing 18 of 33 passes for 212 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. As Curran notes, that body of work hasn't convinced the Patriots he deserves to usurp Newton as the team's starter.
Perry offered a counterargument to that view of Stidham, though, arguing that the 24-year-old QB should be graded on a sliding scale.
"Jarrett Stidham hasn't had a shining moment, period, in his opportunities given. ... So, I get that," Perry said. "But if the excuse all year is, 'Cam Newton has no help. What do you expect? The passing game stinks,' then why are we holding Jarrett Stidham to any kind of standard when he's out there in terms of producing when he's on the field?"
Perry also noted that despite his shortcomings, Stidham boasts a skill set that in some areas may be superior to Newton's.
"I would say, trying to be as objectively as possible ... I've seen things from Stidham that I haven't seen from Cam Newton," Perry said. " ... Cam Newton, for all the running that he does, when he drops back to pass, he's very much an old-school, heavy-legged pocket passer. He can't get away from anybody. It's such a critical part of the position.
"I'm not saying Jarrett Stidham can do that, because we saw him get sacked a couple times the other night too. But he looks a little lighter on his feet. ... I think there is something to at least drill down a little deeper on with Jarrett Stidham."
The Patriots apparently don't share that belief, as Belichick has continued to endorse Newton as the starter ahead of Sunday's Week 15 matchup with the Miami Dolphins.
Curran and Perry also debated why Stidham is still on the roster if there's no future for him as a starter and how the Patriots can improve their woeful passing game down the stretch. The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero joined the podcast as well to discuss the Dolphins' rapid turnaround from tankers to contenders.