Following a loss to the Dolphins on Sunday that knocked them out of playoff contention, the 2020 Patriots don’t have much to play for over the season’s final two games.
One of the few things they can play for is the future. With Cam Newton putting up another lackluster performance on Sunday, it’s looking more clear that he likely isn’t the long-term solution at quarterback. If that’s the case, it might be reasonable to think that Jarrett Stidham should start in the season’s final two games.
Bill Belichick didn’t rule out making the swap at quarterback to end the season – a decision that Matt Cassel and other NFL experts believe Belichick should make.
Cassel, who backed up Tom Brady for three seasons before starting 15 games for the Patriots in 2008, made his case to start Stidham on NBC Sports Boston’s “Patriots Postgame Live.”
“I believe so, why not give him an opportunity,” Cassel said. “You don’t really know what you have with Jarrett Stidham. You’ve never really given him a full opportunity during a week of practice to get all the reps, to prepare, to put a gameplan together specifically for his skill set and see what he can do and if he’s going to help you in the passing game. Right now he’s an unknown. He’s been thrown into bad situations at the end of games or when it’s a blowout against the Chargers.”
Stidham has played in seven games in his two-year NFL career but he’s yet to start a game. Cassel pointed out the difference in how he can be evaluated over the course of a full game as opposed to entering a game in relief.
“So, right now you don’t know what you have, and if you think he has any ability to run this offense, why not give him these last two games and let him compete against some of your division rivals,” Cassel said. “Let him grow in that offense, see how he does versus adversity, and also four quarters of a game and not just small sections of the game when you know it’s out of hand. So, yes, you start Jarrett Stidham these next two weeks and see what you’ve got.”
Cassel is one of many in local sports media who believes that it’s time for Belichick to start Stidham. NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran thinks Stidham, along with other young players such as Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, should get more reps to end the season to make up for the time lost in training camp and preseason. Curran also believes that by going to Stidham, it will give Belichick a better outline on what to do this offseason.
“In these last two games, Bill Belichick needs to engage in a full-on audit of what he’s got so the $60M in cap space and the top-15 draft pick doesn’t burn a hole in his pocket,” Curran wrote. “Stop with the avoidance.
“Nobody needs more reps from Cam Newton, who at this point is basically a taller version of Mike Tolbert playing quarterback. He’s gumming up the offensive works. Such as they are.”
WEEI’s Andy Hart also believes it’s time to see what Stidham’s got, arguing that playing him is one of the few things of value that can come over the last two games of the season.
“The tangible goals of the season are lost,” Hart wrote. But the intangible value of getting Stidham 100-plus live reps in real game action over the next couple weeks might just bring value to what is otherwise essentially 120 meaningless minutes of fruitless football.”
NESN.com’s Zach Cox, a Patriots beat reporter, defended Newton for all he’s gone through this season, including a positive COVID-19 test and having to learn the Patriots’ system on the fly. But he too believes that it’s time to play Stidham now that the Patriots are out of the playoff picture.
“Even if the Patriots haven’t been impressed with the 2019 fourth-round draft pick thus far — which seems to be the case, since Newton has kept his QB1 tag — it’s hard to draw a complete picture of a player’s potential based only on sporadic practice reps and the occasional garbage-time appearance,” Cox wrote.
NBC Sports’ Peter King didn’t say if Stidham should start to close out the season. However, he’s seen enough of Newton to say that the Patriots don’t have a long-term quarterback on their roster and gave a suggestion on who they could pick in the NFL Draft.
“The Patriots obviously need to address quarterback in the offseason, and, at 6-8 with two games to go, they may be in no-man’s land on draft weekend to get one of the three best QBs in college football,” King wrote in his weekly “Football Morning in America” column. “A 7-9 team picks around 11 to 15. Maybe the shortened season of North Dakota State’s Trey Lance will push him down into the Patriot draft zone. Whatever, Newton’s crash to earth has made quarterback an urgent need for New England.”
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