If we made a video to illustrate the current state of the Patriots quarterback position, we’d open with tumbleweeds. Hang on that for a few seconds. Maybe have a scorpion scuttle across the screen. And then fade to black.
There's really nothing there.
Under contract heading into the 2021 season are Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala, a 6-foot-7, 240-pounder who spent a chunk of the year on the Patriots practice squad.
Stidham was 22 for 44 for 256 yards with two touchdown passes and three picks in spot duty in 2020. Even as the Patriots passing game lagged with Cam Newton at the controls, Stidham did little with the opportunities he got when summoned. In contrast to Jimmy Garoppolo’s mildly stirring performance when he got a shot in relief of Tom Brady against the Chiefs back in 2014, Stidham did nothing to inspire a “we need to see more of this” vibe when the Patriots went to him.
Entering his third season, Stidham’s live arm and adequate mobility remain his obvious strengths. He can, as they say, spin it. But his decision-making is wildly inconsistent. There are times he’ll stand in the pocket with pressure swirling and deliver a decent throw knowing he’s going to get blasted. And then there are times he appears jumpy and unnerved by pressure. He puts the ball in harm’s way too often.
Time and again, Bill Belichick has spoken about the second-year jump players usually make. But without OTAs, minicamps, joint practices and preseason games, all the second-year Patriots in 2020 suffered at least a little. Stidham, because of the intricacies of the position, perhaps more so. He had an opportunity at the start of training camp to make his case. But a groin injury suffered at the start of camp soon had him falling irretrievably behind Cam Newton. When Stidham did get his camp chances, picks were an issue. Same as in the games.
Finding a competent starter is the highest priority for the Patriots in 2021. Stidham, at this point, doesn’t even qualify as a safety net. The chance still exists that the light goes on this offseason. But he’s done nothing so far to distinguish himself as a player you can envision under center as the Week 1 starter in September.
The Patriots will no doubt address quarterback in both the draft and free agency. Where Stidham fits in the mix will be up to him.
Editor's note: Every Tuesday, Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran will evaluate a different position on New England's offense to reset where the team stands entering the offseason. Next up: the running backs.