The New England Patriots have not made a change at quarterback despite lackluster play from Cam Newton in recent weeks, but will the team's mindset change after being eliminated from the AFC playoff race Sunday?
The Patriots' 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins in their Week 15 matchup at Hard Rock Stadium snapped New England's postseason appearance streak at 11 seasons.
Now that the pursuit of playoff football is over, the Patriots need to decide whether to keep rolling with Newton or give second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham a chance to run the offense as the starter.
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Former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel thinks turning to Stidham is the best move.
"I believe so, why not give him an opportunity," Cassel said on NBC Sports Boston's "Patriots Postgame Live." "You don't really know what you have with Jarrett Stidham. You've never really given him a full opportunity during a week of practice to get all the reps, to prepare, to put a gameplan together specifically for his skill set and see what he can do and if he's going to help you in the passing game. Right now he's an unknown. He's been thrown into bad situations at the end of games or when it's a blowout against the Chargers.
"So, right now you don't know what you have, and if you think he has any ability to run this offense, why not give him these last two games and let him compete against some of your division rivals. Let him grow in that offense, see how he does versus adversity, and also four quarters of a game and not just small sections of the game when you know it's out of hand. So, yes, you start Jarrett Stidham these next two weeks and see what you've got."
Stidham has played in four games this season and the Patriots were either leading comfortably or trailing by a large margin in each appearance. He has completed 18 of 33 pass attempts for 212 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in his limited action.
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The stats aren't great, but it's also unfair to judge him based on such a small sample size. The Patriots invested a fourth round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to acquire Stidham, and he probably would've been the starter in 2020 if the team hadn't signed Newton in free agency.
The goal for the Patriots over the final two weeks of the season should be figuring out which players will be part of the team's future. How many of these players are going to play a meaningful role in the next playoff-caliber team in Foxboro? We don't yet know if Stidham is part of that group, so it makes all the sense in the world to find out in the final two games.