You'd have to go back prior to 1993 to find the New England Patriots really heading down a bumpy road at the quarterback position. It was in '93 when New England was able to select Drew Bledsoe with the top overall pick, and he then led the organization for nine seasons before giving way to Tom Brady. Once Brady took over, there was essentially a two-decade run of smooth sailing under center. For the first time since both of them arrived in Foxborough, the waters may start to get a little choppy.
This offseason saw the end to Brady's tenure in New England after he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which will now open the door for a new starting quarterback for the Patriots. As things stand, it appears it will be a competition between Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer, with the second-year quarterback out of Auburn owning the inside track at the gig.
If Stidham does ultimately win the job, there's obviously going to be a noticeable drop in experience from the type of quarterback play New Englanders are used to. During a recent appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who retired this offseason after 34 years with the organization, noted that there will certainly be some growing pains with Stidham under center, but does recognize his potential.
"He's a different guy in a couple of ways," Scarnecchia said. "No. 1, he doesn't have the wealth of experience that Tom has. There's no doubt about that, and you have to concede that. Yes, there's going to be some things where he's going to hold the ball longer than you want it to be held, but that's all about growing up in this league, and you know that as well as I do. You know, those young guys, they take some time. But I would say this for Jarrett, too -- he's a bright kid, and he's a guy who, when he doesn't know, he'll take off. He showed in the preseason last year that he's got some skills and he knows when to get out of there and where the escape points may be and when he gets out of there, he also knows he better get down because he knows better than to try to run through guys as well. You're not running through many guys in this league.
"So there's going to be some growing pains. There's no doubt about it. But the guy does have skills. He's got a great mind. He cares. He shows up early. He goes home late. I wish him nothing but the best. If [I was] still there, I would just say, 'Hey, listen fellas, we've got to do everything we can to make this guy as comfortable as we can,' and I'm sure the guys that are going to coach those guys this year are saying exactly that. 'We've got to be as good as we can be every down and give this guy all the support we possibly can and let him get comfortable and build confidence and be the kind of player that we want him to be and that he wants to be more importantly.' "
Stidham didn't see much action during the regular season. When he did, that time in the sun was short lived after throwing a pick-six to Jamal Adams against the New York Jets. However, what the Patriots saw in the preseason over a stretch of four games was far more encouraging. He completed nearly 68% of his passes for 731 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. He also rushed for 88 yards.
To Scarnecchia's point, the Patriots will probably have to work with Stidham about getting rid of the ball quickly. Younger quarterbacks tend to hang onto the football a bit longer as they are slow to process the information that is unfolding in front of them. We saw that from Stidham in the preseason as well as he went down with nine sacks.
Those are the types of things that New England has had the luxury of avoiding for over 20 years, but are now faced with in 2020 with Stidham. While it may not always look pretty over the course of this season, the young quarterback does show the potential of being a legit starter in the league if he's able to come out on the other side of those growing pains.