What if Jarrett Stidham is actually the answer for the post-Tom Brady Patriots?

Replacing Tom Brady will be next to impossible, but what if Jarrett Stidham winds up being the answer for the New England Patriots?

After 20 seasons, it’s a new era for the New England Patriots. Tom Brady is gone to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his stead on the depth chart are Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler and the newly signed Brian Hoyer for a third stint with the team.

If Week 1 were today, Stidham would be the starter under center for the Patriots. A 2019 fourth-round pick out of Auburn, he appeared in three games and attempted four passes as a rookie (completing two).

Brady’s departure left the Patriots with $13.5 million in dead money, which brings their total dead money hit to nearly $23 million for this year. More than 10 percent of the salary cap allocated to players no longer on the team necessarily kept New England out of the mix for free agents like Teddy Bridgewater and Philip Rivers. Jameis Winston would be interesting if only to watch Bill Belichick on the sideline in the middle of a three or four-interception game.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been a popular trade target, but Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported pursuit of him is not in the Patriots’ plans. Cam Newton lingers as a possible trade target though.

Belichick’s style is not to roundly praise any player and praising a rookie is markedly rare but he openly praised Stidham last preseason.

“I think there were several plays that dawned all of the categories really,” “Quick throws where the read was clear and the receiver was open and then maybe a secondary read, and then there were a couple of times where he scrambled and extended the play.”

“The most important thing for the quarterback is not to turn the ball over, make good decisions, and throw accurately, so he did all of those at times.”

Last preseason, with that clear caveat but obviously the best playing sample he has in the NFL, Stidham went 61-for-90 for 731 yards (8.1 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns, one interception and a 102.6 passer rating. According to NESN.com, he went 4-for-11 for 104 yards on 20-plus yard throws with three of the seven incompletions credited to drops.

Being the guy who follows “the guy” comes with extra pressure, and the guy who follows Brady will face a special level of scrutiny. But Gus Malzahn, Stidham’s coach at Auburn, seems to think his former quarterback is ready for the challenge.

“Just the way he approaches everything,” Malzahn told Yahoo Sports on Saturday. “He’s obsessed. He’s obsessed with being the best. When it came to studying film, he was always up in the complex watching. You couldn’t chase him out of there. He was just trying to be the best. That’s the way he went about everything.”

The Patriots don’t have many other options at quarterback, and bringing Hoyer back seems to be an open acknowledgment Stidham is the favorite to be the starter this year. Drafting someone is possible, but based on Belichick’s praise of Stidham that may be on the back burner unless someone falls in their lap.

So Stidham is in line to get a shot this year, barring something unforeseen. He will never equal Brady’s run in terms of length and success, but if he shows well in his first season as the starter he can absolutely extend the long run of stability under center in New England.

Next: 2020 NFL Draft: Patriots full 7-round mock

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