FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — After an offseason in which Jarrett Stidham had the inside track to be Tom Brady‘s heir apparent at quarterback, a plan later knocked off course when Cam Newton officially joined the New England Patriots in early July, it would be understandable if many figured this is Stidham’s time to step in.
Newton is out for Monday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (7:05 ET, CBS) after officially being placed on the COVID-19/reserve list.
So it’s next man up.
And that next man is … Brian Hoyer?
That is the expectation after Hoyer has served as the No. 2 quarterback for the first three games of the season and Stidham — who had beaten Hoyer out for that job in 2019 — was a game-day inactive each of the first three weeks.
Stidham’s 2020 slide can be traced to two dates.
When Newton signed on July 8, which wasn’t part of a long courtship and more a result of him surprisingly still being on the market, it significantly lessened Stidham’s odds of being the No. 1. As retired Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia had said of Stidham on SiriusXM NFL Radio, “I don’t think he’s to Cam’s skill set, but this guy is a pretty good player.”
The No. 2 job still was well within Stidham’s reach, however, until everything changed Aug. 20, the fourth day of training camp. After a shaky practice that day, Stidham visited a Boston hospital for tests on his leg, which came back negative.
While Stidham, 24, was on the field for practice the next day, his repetitions were scaled way back. He never really recovered, and never really made a strong charge.
It was a disappointing turn after so much of the offseason spotlight had shined on him. Now with Newton unavailable on Monday night, and possibly Sunday in Week 5 against the visiting Denver Broncos, Stidham is at least temporarily back to his role from 2019 — one snap away from being the guy.
“He’s a great kid and loves the game of football. Works really hard. Has put a lot of time and effort into his craft,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said last week. “He’s really an unselfish guy … continues to prepare just as he would if he was starting, which is what he did last year as a rookie. I have a lot of confidence in Jarrett and I see a lot of growth in him each week that he’s here.”
Meanwhile, the confidence in Hoyer, who turns 35 on Oct. 13, traces to his experience and background in the Patriots’ offensive system; this is his third stint with the team. He’s almost like another coach and was the steadiest of the quarterbacks throughout training camp.
“I’m the guy who’s most experienced. I’ve learned a lot about this offense over the years and I try to obviously keep learning, keep getting better, and help the guys around me,” Hoyer said at the end of August. “I wouldn’t say that I’m to the level where I always want to be, but I’m always striving to get to that level of know the ‘why,’ know the ‘how,’ do those things, and then go out and execute.”
Hoyer, who is 0-10 in his past 10 starts, with his most recent victory in 2016, will be thrust into a challenging spot against the defending champion Chiefs.
The previous time the Patriots were this big of an underdog (10.5 points) was Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams.