Though the New England Patriots have historically kept just one backup behind Tom Brady, it looks like they may break precedent this season.
It’s never a good idea to read too much into the NFL preseason, but occasionally, enough evidence mounts that the timing feels right to make a bold assertion or prediction based off the events that have transpired.
Such is the case with the New England Patriots‘ quarterback situation heading into the 2019 regular season.
During the Tom Brady era, Bill Belichick has rarely elected to carry more than one backup QB behind Brady. And why would you anyway, when you consider Brady’s consummate greatness at the position as well as his awe-inspiring durability? Throwing out the four-game suspension in 2016, Brady has only ever missed time when he was lost for the season in Week 1 of 2008 with ACL and MCL tears.
The last time the Patriots kept three quarterbacks was actually that 2016 season, and it probably only occurred because Brady was set to miss the first four games while serving his punishment for the Deflategate saga. That was the year that Jimmy Garoppolo burst on the scene – and to a lesser extent, Jacoby Brissett did as well. (On a side note, who could have predicted before that season began that both Garoppolo and Brissett would be the starting quarterbacks for other NFL teams just three years later?)
Though Brady is completely healthy and in no danger of missing time this year to suspension, New England appears poised to carry two quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart in 33-year-old veteran Brian Hoyer and 23-year-old rookie Jarrett Stidham.
That much can be deduced after watching and analyzing the Patriots’ fourth game of the preseason. While nothing is concrete, it was telling that Hoyer didn’t see the field for a single snap against the New York Giants. If the Patriots were presumably considering shopping Hoyer to another QB-needy team in a late-summer trade, they almost certainly would have put him out on the field to try and further increase his stock as an asset.
Instead, they kept Hoyer exactly where they kept Brady: safe and sound on the sideline.
It should also go without saying that Stidham is a lock for the roster. Besides being a fourth-round draft pick this year – and thus, far too expensive a commodity to dispose of so soon – Stidham has also been sensational this preseason. While it may be too early to anoint him as Brady’s heir apparent, he has done more than enough already to prove he’s worthy of at least being groomed that way until further notice.
Keeping both Hoyer and Stidham on the 53-man final roster may seem like a bad idea for a team like New England that has so many incredibly gifted players vying for so few open spots, but ultimately it’s the right decision. Though Stidham has shown flashes of preternatural pocket presence and savvy beyond his youth and inexperience, he’s probably still a couple years removed from being a trusted No. 2 option as an NFL starting quarterback.
That role belongs to Hoyer, and Hoyer deserves it. While the longtime New England backup flamed out as a starter during pit stops in Cleveland and Houston, he represents the perfect quality insurance a team would desire in the No. 2 guy behind a QB1.