Since the Jimmy Garoppolo trade, Patriots fans have been wondering who the long-term replacement for Tom Brady will be. With the news being broken this week regarding Brady’s sore back and Brian Hoyer’s indifferent performance against the Redskins, a Plan B should surely be on the mind of the coaching staff. I don’t think anybody genuinely believes that Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling are the chosen one to replace Brady long-term, but lets put forward a different scenario.
Heaven forbid that Tom Brady were to go down with a season ending injury this year, before the trade deadline. How would the Patriots handle the starting Quarterback situation? Assuming that they are still in playoff contention, what would they do? Stick with Hoyer? Make a trade? Pick up a free agent? Coax someone out of retirement? Let’s look at the realistic options available.
Sticking with Hoyer
Brian Hoyer is no longer the borderline starter that he was a couple of seasons ago. He looks to have regressed a bit, which could mainly be down to his confidence. Hoyer has never been able to throw the ball deep consistently and it has always been the biggest knock on him. If Brady were to get injured, Hoyer’s remaining strengths would probably be best maximised in New England with Josh McDaniels and he is definitely still capable of winning a few games.
With all that being said, Hoyer is probably one of the best veteran backups in the NFL with starting experience. Only Bridgewater, Henne, Siemian, Fitzpatrick and of course Foles could rival him.
Going with Etling
Lets set the record straight here regarding Danny Etling. He was not drafted to be the heir apparent, and he would be lucky to even make the roster. Whilst that might seem disrespectful, that is not the intention. The fact is that the Patriots typically keep two Quarterbacks on the roster during the regular season. At the moment the best on the roster are Brady and Hoyer.
Etling, as a 7thround pick will not have the opportunities that his fellow 2018 draftees will have in training camp. There is a finite amount of Quarterback snaps to go around and the majority of those will go to Brady with Hoyer and Etling feeding off scraps or “opportunity reps” after practice. It doesn’t mean that it is impossible that he would make the roster as Brady’s backup, it is just extremely unlikely.
The Patriots make a trade
When Teddy Bridgewater went down with that horrific knee injury in training camp two seasons ago, the Vikings mortgaged a significant amount of draft capital in order to trade for a starting calibre Quarterback in Sam Bradford. If the Patriots were to go down the trade route, it would not come cheap.
Considering Bradford was a backup to Carson Wentz, he was surplus to requirements with the Eagles. This did not mean he came at a discount price, but it is here that the Patriots would need to do their shopping. That is, trade for a veteran with experience that might have lost their starting job to a rookie/younger Quarterback. Looking at the NFL rosters as it stands, some options that might be available are as follows:
- AJ McCarron from the Bills
- Brock Osweiller from the Dolphins
- Josh McCown from the Jets
- Nick Foles from the Eagles
- Sam Bradford/Mike Glennon from the Cardinals
One thing to remember here too is that the player that the Patriots trade for would need to be significantly better than those on the roster already in order to make the trade worthwhile. To be honest, outside of Foles, McCown and Bradford, none of the others would fill you with a lot of confidence. Foles would command at least a first round pick and seemingly has no desire to be a starter. McCarron, Osweiller and McCown are all in the AFC East and it is extremely doubtful that any of these teams would want to help the Patriots out even if it meant acquiring some decent draft capital.
The whispers coming out of Arizona point to Bradford being the starter with Rosen and Glennon competing for the backup spot. Rosen would need to blow everyone away for Bradford to be available at this point. If the Patriots were then only left with Glennon, we should revert to the previous point; would he really be an improvement over Brian Hoyer?
Picking up a Free-Agent
For this section we take a walk to the wrong side of the tracks, where the Free Agent Quarterbacks hang out. Well maybe not quite. As free agents go, there are some Quarterbacks available that are capable of winning a game or two, or in some cases three. This scenario would only crop up if it was post-trade deadline and they had also fallen out of love with Brian Hoyer. The Quarterbacks from the list below represent a smattering of players that are either as good as Hoyer, or maybe slightly better.
- Matt Moore & Derek Anderson
- Moore & Anderson have always been above average veteran backups but their skill sets and career statistics are extremely similar to Hoyer to the point where it would be difficult to say it would be worth signing either of them at all. Moore is the superior of the two and is more familiar with the AFC having spent the last seven years with the Dolphins.
- Colin Kaepernick
- Regardless of your political persuasions, at this (hypothetical) point with Brady being out, Kaepernick presents the highest ceiling out of all the available free agents. Whilst I agree with his detractors that the tail end of his 49ers run was abysmal, there is still an underlying NFL calibre talent there. If any Offensive Coordinator could bring back the “Super Bowl Kaep”, Josh McDaniels is the man. All this being said, with his lawsuit against the NFL still pending, it would be highly improbable that the Patriots (or any team for that matter) would sign him at this point.
- The Others
- The only other viable options probably wouldn’t be an upgrade over Hoyer but could be signed as emergency backups. Kellen Clemens and TJ Yates are probably the best available. If either player ends up taking any meaningful snaps for the Patriots then they would be in trouble, serious trouble (10-6).
Coaxing a Veteran out of Retirement
Lets state for the record straight away that the likelihood of coaxing any of these players out of retirement would be slim to none. However, if there is a will there is a way, and if the Patriots were in a good position regarding their record late in the season and the money was right, anything could happen. Lets break down the following options and see how it might go:
- Tony Romo – The former Cowboy has settled into his new role as a play-by-play announcer for CBS and has so far thrived in the role. In my humble view, with Romo’s injury history it would be a bad career move on his part and also possibly for the Patriots, who could probably end up having to sign another replacement for him in the likelihood that his back doesn’t hold up.
- Jay Cutler – I think we all know how the Dolphins experiment went last year.
- Carson Palmer – Now Mr Palmer might actually be an option here. Well more of an option than Cutler and Romo. Whilst injuries may have caught up with Palmer towards the end of his career his last injury was “just” a broken arm, which is hardly a career ender. He could probably be cajoled out of retirement, especially if a Super Bowl run was on the table.
Ok Tom has gone down, and there is six days to the next game. What should Bill do? All the options have been laid out. To be fair the options are more like a cheap buffet than an a la carte menu but needs must.
Realistically, the Patriots will most likely move forward with Hoyer but if somebody from outside of the current roster were to be brought in, I could see Matt Moore being the guy. This is due to his experience in the AFC East and he has most likely run scout team Quarterback for the Dolphins as Tom Brady in the past. Whether Moore supplants Hoyer as the starter or is signed to be the backup it is unsure. What is for certain though is Patriots fans will hope this scenario never, ever occurs. Ever.
-Luke O’Brien is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @lukeobrien21