With the 2020 season nearly in the bag, many team find themselves with a quarterback quandry as we head into 2021. For the first time in nearly 2 decades, the New England Patriots find themselves in this group.
Take That were ‘ruling the world (sic)’, Obama-mania was running wild after his Presidential election win, I got married, Usain Bolt reigned in Beijing. 2008 seems like a lifetime ago. It was also the last season in which the New England Patriots failed to make the playoffs. That is until 2020.
This time however, it feels different. In 2008, The Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassell (someone who had been Carson Palmer’s backup at USC) under centre following Tom Brady’s ACL rupture. They only missed the playoffs after Miami won the division on the 4th tiebreaker, and the Baltimore Ravens qualified on the 2nd wildcard tiebreaker. Hardly a disastrous season.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Patriots are once again on the outside looking in. They are currently sitting 6-9 they are in line to finish 3rd in the AFC East, a division they have had a near two decade strangle hold on. They have looked a million miles away from being Super Bowl contenders.
Losing TB12 was always going to be a massive blow to the Patriots, given his tenure of unprecedented success. But with former number 1 pick and MVP Cam Newton, and well-liked 2nd year Jarrett Stidham in the QB room, New England headed into 2020 cautiously optimistic. This optimism was duly unfounded. .
Current Incumbents in the quarterback quandry
The patriots signed free agent Cam Newton for a base salary $1.05m with just $550,000 guaranteed – a ridiculously low figure for a former number 1 pick and league MVP. However, Newton had not had his injury issues to seek over the preceding few years – suffering shoulder and foot injuries in back to back years.
After starting brightly against the Dolphins in week 1, and then another great showing versus the Seahawks in week 2, things went south after Newton’s COVID-19 diagnosis which caused him to miss week 4 against the Chiefs.
Ranking 21st in the league in pass completion percentage (65.4%), Newton is 29th in adjusted QB rating and 31st in passer rating. Even at his peak Newton was never a great passing QB. On the other hand, he has always been able to rely on his rushing ability. There is evidence that some of this is still there, with 513 years and 12 TDs in 2020. However, as he ages, and injuries continue to rack up, being a run first QB will be difficult to sustain.
Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer
Despite being talked up for the majority of the offseason by the Patriots coaching staff, former Auburn QB Stidham has struggled to make much of an impact in his limited snaps. His pass completion percentage only just scrapes 50%. His TD-INT ratio sits at 2:4. It’s clear to most that he isn’t the answer long-term in Foxborough.
Brian Hoyer is in the back nine of his career which started back in 2009. As an underrated free agent, he has done remarkably well to still be in the NFL in 2020. Again, he is at best a back up and not someone anyone expects to lead a Patriots revival.
So heading into 2020, how does Bill Belichik solve the New England Patriots quarterback quandry?
To try and find a solution, The Patriots could be tempted to look at those quarterbacks who have already made a name for themself in the NFL. There may be some candidates available that could tempt Belichik into a trade
Since entering the league as the 2009 number 1 overall pick, Matt Stafford has done an admirable job under centre. The same cannot be said for those in the coaching staff or front office in Detroit however. More often than not he has played on underperforming teams. He may welcome a change of scenery. A new GM/Coach combination for the Lions may wish to hit the reset button on the franchise too.
Nobody’s star fell faster in 2020 that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Replaced by Jalen Hurts for the last few games, Wentz may not find himself back in the starting lineup in Philadelphia any time soon. New England are projected to have the 3rd most cap space in 2021. Could they be tempted to swallow up his massive contract and revive his ailing career?
With the 49ers rumoured to be interested in new Quarterback this offseason, Jimmy G could be on the market. Ever since his departure from New England, Belichik has always spoken highly of him. Whispers have continued to this day that Belichik didn’t really want to trade him. When he did hemade sure he went to a sound coach/organisation. Having led the 49ers to a Super Bowl, could he return ‘home’ and do the same for New England?
Should the choose to, the Patriots could find their Quarterback of the future in the 2021 draft. Currently slated to draft at position 14, the Top 3 of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson will likely be out of reach without trading up. However, there are still some intriguing prospects that might be available later in round 1 or into day 2
Despite only playing once this year, the North Dakota Bison heads into the 2021 draft feeling confident about his prospects. Projected by some to go in round 1, his strong arm and running ability could prove a tantilising combination for Patriots OC Josh McDaniels. Despite his relative lack of playing time, and the strength of opponents he’s faced so far, Lance could be on the PAtriots radar
The Florida Gators QB is in the running for the Heisman Trophy. But will his playing style translate to the NFL. Surrounded by stars at the skill position, he has been highly successful at the collegiate level in 2020. However, without a cannon of an arm, nor outrageous physical traits, Trask may not be NFL ready. If he were to be drafted,it would likely be as a project rather than franchise saviour.
Could Bill Belichik turn to his old pal, Nick Saban, to help solve his quarterback quandry? An effective rhythm passer, who has played in the Big School environment, might just be the ticket for the Patriots. Whilst he may not set the world on fire as a rookie, he could develop into a steady, stable influence at the QB position.
Whatever the Patriots decide to do this offseason, I cannot see them sticking with the current situation. The ‘quarterback quandry’ needs a solution. Upgrading their receiving corps must also feature highly on their wish list as well as at the quarterback position. Again there are plenty options available to them both in Free Agency and in the draft. Things might just be more interesting in Foxborough in 2021