So now what? What do we do, where do we go after suffering a heartbreak like this? Tom Brady, ‘The Greatest of All Time’, will be playing somewhere besides the New England Patriots for the first time in his 20 year career, and it feels like the end of the world. The Coronavirus couldn’t possibly be as scary as facing life without Tom Brady at quarterback. But that’s the reality that we all have to face. So now what?
While most of the world is focused on Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Patriots fans are left wondering who will be the next quarterback, and how will they cope with the heartbreak of losing the most beloved figure in sports history. The Patriots have enjoyed consistent greatness for two decades in the hardest position in football. They have watched other teams go through quarterbacks like they’re cheap napkins at a barbecue joint. How can the Patriots move on from that?
The way I see it, the team has a few options: draft a rookie, make Jarrett Stidham the starter, sign a free agent or trade for another quarterback.
The least appealing option would be to take a quarterback in the NFL draft. There are several talented young quarterbacks looking to start their NFL careers including Joe Burrows, who led LSU to a CFB National Championship, Tua Tagovailoa, who won the CFB National Championship with Alabama in 2018 but suffered a serious hip injury last season, and Justin Herbert out of Oregon. However, it would be uncharacteristic of the Patriots to trade up to within the top 10 to pick one of these guys and I just don’t see that happening.
And even if the Patriots were to strike gold in the later rounds of the draft as they did with Brady at pick 199 overall and Jimmy Garoppolo at pick 62 overall, the odds of being able to play the rookie immediately are slim.
The second option, which is only slightly better than drafting a rookie, is to promote Jarrett Stidham to be the starting quarterback. Stidham showed talent and poise in the preseason but appeared overwhelmed in regular-season action. He went 2-for-4 with no touchdowns in three games and had an interception returned for a touchdown against the New York Jets in week three. After a full season learning from Brady and learn the unique scheme the Patriots use, he now has the opportunity to compete for the starting role. It’s not fair to assume that he can step in and be the answer right away. The Patriots will need to see what he can do in training camp and the preseason.
The third option is to sign one of the quarterbacks that are currently free agents. This year started with a high number of free-agent quarterbacks, but multiple signings within the first few days of the legal tampering period have significantly reduced those options. Drew Brees re-signed with the New Orleans Saints, Philip Rivers signed with the Indianapolis Colts, Ryan Tannehill re-signed with the Tennessee Titans, and Dak Prescott was franchise-tagged by the Dallas Cowboys.
That doesn’t leave a lot of great options for the Patriots. Joe Flacco was just released by the Denver Broncos, but gross, no thank you. While he isn’t nearly as overrated or overpaid as Brock “The Heist” Osweiler, he was never able to accomplish much without being carried by his defense, and as he’s gotten older he definitely hasn’t gotten better. Speaking of Osweiler, I would rather watch every Patriots game blindfolded than have to watch him in a Patriots uniform.
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One name that has been discussed frequently over the past few months is Jameis Winston. He’s always been an enigma, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns last year, but also throwing 30 interceptions. After getting Lasik eye surgery this offseason that might help him see defenders in his throwing lanes, Winston might be a great fit in New England if he can learn the system, see the field better, and stop forcing the types of throws that led to such a high rate of interceptions.
The final option would be to trade for a quarterback. The Patriots have 12 draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. Three of those picks come in the third round. Coach Belichick frequently uses draft picks in trades and this would be a great scenario to do that again.
It’s always difficult to predict what trades will happen throughout the year. However, some players seem more likely than others to be on the trade block. Rumors are swirling that Cam Newton has asked the Carolina Panthers for a trade or release. Although he has denied those stories he might be on the way out in Carolina. [UPDATE: The Panthers released Newton on Tuesday]. The Cleveland Browns just signed Case Keenum, which means that either he or Baker Mayfield could be traded.
The most obvious and best option would be to trade for Jacoby Brissett. At the start of last season, he looked like a franchise quarterback for the Colts. Unfortunately, he could not finish the season as well as he started due to injury. Brissett knows the system, locker room, and culture in New England after they drafted him in 2016. He also showed promise as a starter in two games while Tom Brady was serving a suspension. He’s even part of “The Wolfpack” along with Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
If Philip Rivers becomes the starter in Indianapolis, the Patriots should make a strong push to trade for Brissett. Although he’s young, he learned from Brady for two years. He has experience as a starter. He has already shown that he is a great leader. And finally, he’s great at making plays with his legs. This could be especially useful if the Patriots receivers are unable to create separation. He has already shown that he is a great leader.
Tell us in the comment section if there are any other quarterbacks you want to see on the Patriots this season. As for coping with Brady’s leaving, I’ll let you know if I ever find a healthy way to recover from that.