All eyes will be on second-year Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of the greatest quarterback of all time in 2020.
A legitimate case could be made that Jarrett Stidham has the hardest job in the NFL this year … and it might not even be close. Still just 23 years of age, the former Auburn Tiger is tasked with replacing a living legend this fall.
Tom Brady shocked the world when he announced his decision in free agency to leave the New England Patriots in favor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The move effectively ends the greatest partnership in the history of professional football (Brady and head coach Bill Belichick), and it puts enormous pressure on Stidham in 2020 and beyond.
Playing professional football is hard enough. Playing quarterback in the NFL is even harder. And playing quarterback in the NFL for a team that just said a tearful goodbye to Brady after 20 years of unparalleled marriage and success? That’s the hardest yet.
There isn’t a more interesting or fascinating plot line in New England this year than the success or failure of Jarrett Stidham. While other players are under intense scrutiny and will need to produce to keep their jobs this year and next year (Sony Michel, N’Keal Harry, Jason McCourty, etc.), no player faces more pressure in 2020 than Stidham.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
To put it plan and simple, the best-case scenario for “Stid the Kid” is to try and make everyone in the six New England states (and maybe even everyone around the world) forget all about Tom Brady.
It’s one thing if Brady stays relevant and topical because of all the success he’s having with his new team down in Tampa. It’s quite another if he stays so because of his replacement (Stidham) struggling in New England (more on that down below).
Stidham doesn’t need to win a Super Bowl ring or get a Pro Bowl nod in 2020. All he really needs to do is keep the ship afloat and steer it clear of dangerous rocks and storms. He should rely on one of the best offensive lines in the league and one of the deepest running back platoons around — and he should rely on both early and often.
He also would do well to check down to the likes of Julian Edelman and James White whenever he’s in trouble. If it worked for Tom Terrific for so many years, it can work for Stidham.
All he really needs to do is show some promise and potential. If he’s not a total disaster under center, maybe — just maybe — he could represent the future of the quarterback position for the Pats.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
If, however, Stidham crashes and burns this season, he may not get a second chance to redeem himself.
Part of the problem with the Patriots being so dominant and dynamic for so long is it’s created a culture that cannot abide anything other than success. As long as Belichick is still in charge (and, to a lesser extent, Robert Kraft is still the owner), the expectation around New England is that the Patriots should be competitive in the AFC and NFL in general.
The bulk of a team that went 8-0 last season before finishing 4-4 and still making the playoffs returns for 2020. Brady is obviously the biggest offseason departure, but there is cautious optimism that Stidham might play as well as Brady did in 2019 with the talent he has around him — particularly on defense.
If that optimism proves unfounded, time may run out quickly on Stidham.
As a fourth-round pick, he’s certainly a valuable commodity to the Patriots, but it also wouldn’t be considered a massive waste should New England decide to move on from him if he struggles.