Pffft. GTFOH with that. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a guy who covers a team being ridiculously optimistic just to suck up to the organization and pander to the fanbase. Hey football journo, how about a little objectivity, huh? Quit fanboying for one hot second and give us the truth. You're not getting paid to just spin the company line. It's your job to analyze what's really going on. I like Mike Reiss and all, but you'd never catch me shamelessly cheerleading for the Patriots like this. I've got a shred of dignity at least.
With that disclaimer out of the way, Reiss is not wrong. That's a take the temperature of the core of Chernobyl, I know. But I agree with his overall premise.
Can I definitively say that 2020 Jarrett Stidham will be a better quarterback than 2020 Tom Brady? Not at all. Not after years of arguing with imbeciles who think Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and whatever flavor of the month they're arguing for at any given time. I'd never expect that to be the case until I see it.
But that's not the question. Being a better quarterback and being the quarterback in a better, more improved offense are two different things. None of us are asking Stidham to be better than Brady. Just to - and I apologize for going right to the lazy cliche' but nothing else says it better - do … his … job. To fit in with the pieces around him, mesh all the component parts, and make the machine operate more effectively than it did last year. If not to be a tremendous upgrade, to at least be more consistent week to week. So that we don't have stretches like the one in the second half of the season when they averaged just 17 PPG while going 2-2. Or the playoff game against Tennessee where they put one touchdown drive together in the first half and got blanked the rest of the way. That is very possible.
And to expand upon Reiss' point, it starts with the running game. They won the Super Bowl the year before by going big in a league that had gone smaller and smaller. They didn't face a single linebacker over 240 pounds in the entire postseason. So they loaded up in 2-back sets and used Gronk and LaAdrian Waddle as extra tackles and pounded teams designed to stop spread attacks and too small and helpless to stop them. Everyone else was playing checkers, and Belichick was playing whatever game it is where you smash the checkerboard to smithereens with a sledgehammer. They have all five starting O-linemen returning, including David Andrews. James Develin was a huge part of that equation in 2018 and last year they were reduced to swapping Elandon Roberts back there on an emergency basis and now they're both gone. But they've replaced Develin with Danny Vitale, who is at least a professional fullback. If they mix Damien Harris into what is already a deep, versatile RB corps, then can be as good if not better on the ground than they were winning their last title.
I did not know that stat about the Patriots leading the league in throwaways. In fairness to Brady, I felt at the time the vast majority of those were the result of smart decision-making on his part. The roster turnover at the wideout spot was among the worst we've ever seen in a single season. The tight end position was virtually non-existent. Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett aside, the receivers Brady did have were limited in their practice time with him due to injuries. But Stidham will have as much time to get in sync with Edelman, N'Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu as any QB/WR combinations in the league. And he is working on that already.
Add to that the fact Belichick invested a lot of draft capital in the tight end position, selecting the second and fourth TEs of the entire draft, Devin Asiasi at 91 and Dalton Keene 10 picks later. Even assuming they'll need a year to get fully acclimated, either one of them is a significant upgrade from Ben Watson running routes with a copy of AARP Magazine under his arm.
And, frankly, while I don't want this to be taken as a swipe at Brady, he's a perfectionist. He's as demanding of his receivers as Michael Jordan was of any of his teammates. Which as his New England career went on, had the dual effect of getting them to achieve greatness and cause him to lose patience with the ones who didn't get it right away. With Belichick's blessing, by the way. Both have admitted that he had no time for guys who weren't ultra-reliable fast enough for this liking. The team almost lost rookie Malcolm Mitchell because of it, until he managed to escape Brady's doghouse under cover of darkness and make huge catches to win Super Bowl LI. I have every hope Stidham will develop with his receiving corps, the way a guy who's still learning does. Like early Brady. As opposed to later Brady, who had mastered it all so long ago that he was going full JK Simmons in "Whiplash" on younger guys.
Again, I object to the shameless rumpswabbery of anyone who just automatically puts everything with this team in the best possible light. But on this rare, rare occasion, I share Mike Reiss' sentiments. I just hope we're right.