Nobody is going to accuse Bill Belichick of not being smart. And naturally no one is going to claim that he can’t put together a championship team.
So even though it might look very much like a rebuilding year for the New England Patriots, you could not discount that he may have a trick up his sleeve.
At the moment (and I’m sure this will change), both the Patriots and Buffalo Bills are priced at +128 to win the AFC East in the NFL futures odds that are posted at BetAnySports.
If the season had to start tomorrow, Jarrett Stidham, who has played football at Baylor and Auburn, would be Tom Brady’s successor, with Brian Hoyer playing the very familiar role as the veteran backup.
But the season doesn’t start tomorrow. In fact, we don’t really know WHEN the season starts. So in a way, time is on the Patriots’ side. They have time to upgrade the position well before training camp would ever start.
If things went their way, they might have been able to address that in the draft. But after the first three quarterbacks were taken (Tua, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert), there wasn’t anything Belichick liked enough to make a major investment.
That includes Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm and everyone else. There were a couple of undrafted free agent signings (J’Mar Smith of Louisiana Tech and Brian Lewerke of Michigan State), but they may only see token playing time in the pre-season.
So he wasn’t avoiding the quarterback spot; as he explained in an Associated Press story, “We’ve drafted them in multiple years in multiple points in the draft. It didn’t work out the last three days. It wasn’t by design. It could have, but it didn’t.”
Reportedly the Pats are very high on Stidham, who they spent a fourth-round pick on in 2019. And if you listen to Gus Malzahn, his coach at Auburn, he should be able to step into the starting role in New England right away.
“He had the ability to play his best games when the stakes were highest,” said Malzahn, who went on to explain that he had the arm to make all the throws, etc. Plus, he added, “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.”
Last year, when the Patriots (priced at +2500 to win the Super Bowl at BetAnySports) selected Stidham, Malzahn opined that New England had “just gotten the steal of the draft. Stidham will be successful in the NFL for a long time.”
Okay, that’s anecdotal stuff. And there’s some “CoachSpeak” in there too. But there is a “scientific” angle on this as well.
When Stidham was running Malzahn’s offense, which essentially worked off a run-pass option, he completed only 50% of his passes in 2018 when he was on a straight dropback. We don’t know what kind of tweaks Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are going to make to the offense, so we’re not sure that it will include a lot of RPO. What we DO know is that the Pats drafted a couple of tight ends, including UCLA’s Derek Asiasi, which indicates that they could move along with a similar two-tight end vision to what they had when a more formidable duo – Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez – was involved. Of course, without Gronk or Hernandez, we’re not sure what to expect.
But we do detect an elephant in the room. Of course, there have been some veteran quarterbacks out on the market. Jameis Winston apparently didn’t pique the Pats’ interest enough, and he signed a bargain-basement deal with New Orleans. Cam Newton has been out there, but is he in a position to be mobile enough to maximize his value? As far as Newton and Joe Flacco are concerned, they can’t even take physicals for any team at the moment.
Now with word that Andy Dalton has been released by the Bengals, that opens up another possibility. Dalton is no superstar, but New England might just offer him the best chance to start right away. he has never won a playoff game, and certainly hasn’t gotten to the Super Bowl like Newton or Flacco, but he took Cincinnati to the playoffs five times and has been in three Pro Bowls.
No one replaces Brady, naturally. But Dalton may fit. And if Belichick is serious about trying to reload, rather than rebuild, the nine-year vet might just be the ticket. Otherwise, could the -130 price on fewer than nine wins be the right way to go?
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