Just a few years ago, the New England Patriots had the best quarterback situation in the NFL. But after having Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jacoby Brissett all in the same meeting room, Bill Belichick now has a remarkably uninspiring group comprised of Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, and Brian Hoyer.
Meanwhile, the other teams in the AFC East have devoted ample resources to address the most important position in sports. Unfortunately for the Patriots, Belichick’s one-year gamble on Newton and his fourth-round investment in Stidham hasn’t paid off.
Even though New England will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008, not all hope is lost. Because on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns saved Belichick and the Patriots from living their worst nightmare.
Bill Belichick desperately needs a franchise quarterback
For two decades, the Patriots enjoyed unparalleled stability at quarterback.
But that all changed in March when TB12 took his talents to Tampa.
Despite having a major need at the position, Bill Belichick punted on the chance to add another signal-caller during the 2020 NFL draft.
In July, he finally brought a veteran quarterback aboard. However, the Cam Newton experiment has been a disaster. The 31-year-old has thrown just five touchdown passes and may never get another starting job.
Jarrett Stidham remains a relative unknown outside of the walls of One Patriot Place. The former Auburn transfer has only attempted 37 passes since New England drafted him 133rd overall in 2019. The fact he never unseated Newton doesn’t bode well for his chances of taking over as the team’s long-term starting quarterback.
With no short-term solution available and seemingly no long-term plan in place, Belichick desperately needs to find a franchise quarterback…quickly.
The Bills and Dolphins are set at the position for years to come
As the Patriots dominated the AFC East with Tom Brady under center, the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins tried (and failed) to find franchise quarterbacks capable of going toe-to-toe with the GOAT.
But after blowing draft picks on J.P. Losman, EJ Manuel, Cardale Jones, and Nathan Peterman, the Bills finally found the answer to their biggest problem in 2018.
Buffalo boldly traded up to select Josh Allen. Although the former Wyoming QB faced major doubts about his accuracy, he has shown tremendous improvement since entering the league.
The 6-foot-5, 237-pound signal-caller has thrown for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in his third NFL season. Allen has also impressed as a runner with 383 yards and eight touchdowns. He earned his first Pro Bowl berth and may even steal some MVP votes from Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.
Down in Miami, the Dolphins capped off a brilliant rebuilding plan by nabbing Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Coming off a devastating hip injury, the former Alabama star has flashed star potential. In nine games (eight starts), he has completed 65.1% of his passes for 1,453 yards, 10 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.
He certainly hasn’t been perfect, but Tagovailoa appears to possess the skillset and maturity to become the face of the franchise. It’s no coincidence that both the Bills and the Dolphins have won double-digit games this season now that they’ve secured young quarterbacks via the draft.
The Browns just saved Belichick and the Patriots from living their worst nightmare
The Bills and the Dolphins invested first-round picks and millions of guaranteed dollars to shore up the most important position in sports. The New York Jets did the same in 2018 when they selected Sam Darnold third overall.
Of course, Adam Gase has ruined Darnold’s development and turned the Jets into a laughingstock. Heading into Sunday, his team owned a 1-13 record and appeared to be in the driver’s seat to land Trevor Lawrence.
But thanks to the Browns, Bill Belichick and the Patriots just avoided their worst nightmare from coming true.
Baker Mayfield had one of his worst games of the season at an opportune time for New England. New York defeated a 10-win Cleveland team to improve to 2-13. And for once, Patriot fans won’t be upset about their hated rival winning a game.
By scoring an upset victory, the Jets simultaneously eliminated themselves from getting the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars will get to rebuild around Lawrence.
For Belichick, that has to be viewed as a monumental victory. Given his history with the Jets, it’s no stretch to say that watching his former employer land a generational prospect would have stung badly. And as the rest of the AFC East learned during Brady’s tenure, having a sizable advantage at quarterback makes a world of difference.
For the Patriots, it would have been a nightmare to deal with Lawrence for the next decade-plus. Instead of game planning to stop the once-in-a-lifetime talent at least twice a year, the Patriots only have to worry about Lawrence if the Jaguars are on their schedule.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Belichick must find a QB prospect to build around in the post-Brady era.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Jets will be picking well ahead of them in April.
For Belichick’s sake, he better hope New York bungles that situation, too.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.