Today Bill Belichick held another virtual press conference. And it's been clear so far he enjoys this format more than the actual live ones. Probably in that same way you'd rather be surrounded by German Panzer troops in the "Call of Duty: WWII" version of Battle of the Bulge than by live German troops at the actual Battle of the Bulge. It's shows up every presser with his answers, which are more expansive than they are when he's standing at the podium in the media room.
Today especially, when he was asked about his quarterbacks:
Q: Could you ever envision a scenario in which it might benefit the team to use two quarterbacks in a platoon style? Or would that bring up too many complications for your offense? If you have two quarterbacks with different skill sets, might that benefit the team?
BB: Yeah, it might. Look, I always say I’ll do what I think is best for the team, what gives us the best chance to win. Whatever that is, I would certainly consider that. If it’s run an unbalanced line or double-unbalanced line or 23 personnel or whatever it is. If it helps us win, then I would consider anything.
If you'll forgive me the immediate, reflexive, nerd reaction - the nerdraction - to this idea ...
I'll start with the disclaimer that this isn't Belichick committing to the idea. He hasn't even proposed or bought it a hope chest and the two aren't even engaged to be engaged. But the very concept of it is … fascinating.
So far, through three full squad, full pad practices, the reps among the quarterbacks have been evenly split. Who's been better is subjective, and ultimately up to the coaching staff to evaluate. But by all accounts, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer have looked more comfortable in the system than Cam Newton. As is to be completely expected, based on relative experience.
So let's say the evaluators are simply more comfortable with Stidham's command of the offense as Week 1 approaches and are convinced he gives them the best chance to win. Hoyer's a natural as a trusted, reliable backup. So their choices are to release Newton, tell him he's their second string and to get comfortable holding a Microsoft surface. Or to figure out a way to take full advantage of his experience in the league, utterly unique physical skills and - because this always matters - his extremely friendly cap number, while he continues to get more familiar with the playbook.
And how do you bench a guy who's won an MVP more recently than Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and won a conference championship more recently than Russell Wilson? You get him involved. Keep him engaged by rotating him through specialty plays designed specifically for him. You offer him and opportunity to be an asset and help you win games now, while showcasing how well he's recovered from his surgeries so he can return as a full time starter somewhere else. That's a win/win/win/win/win scenario.
Keep in mind, I can't imagine by agreeing that he's willing to consider "a platoon" that Belichick is talking about starting one QB and then the other or alternating them from quarter to quarter or drive to drive. To the best of my knowledge, that's only been tried a couple of times, unsuccessfully. Once in the early (read: bad) days of the Patriots, their head coach Mike Holovak couldn't decide who his starting QB should be, so he swapped out Babe Parilli and Butch Songin, and it was a disaster. At Michigan in the late 90s, Lloyd Carr turned every first half into a game show, with Drew Henson and Tom Brady getting one quarter each, with the winner moving onto the second half's Lightning Round. Neither situation lasted very long because they're objectively terrible ideas and go against human nature.
What could very well work though, is a portion of the offense built specifically around Newton's talents. The ones Belichick referenced. Designed runs out of unbalanced lines and three tight end sets, which put 10 blockers on 11 tacklers and increase your odds. Maybe an option element they've never had before, which leaves the playside end unblocked and even the odds further. An RPO-based scheme, which was also never available to them before. And was used so effectively by the Eagles in 2017 and the Ravens last year, particularly in short yardage situations where the Pats struggled last year. Or a version of what the Saints did with Tayshom Hill, though he's not the quarterback Mohamed Sanu is.
Meanwhile the bulk of the snaps go to Stidham, who operates out of the standard Perkins-Erhardt system that has been the bedrock upon which this Dynasty has been built.
And the beautiful thing, is that coordinators around the league will have no choice but to burn precious hours scheming, installing and practicing ways to stop both quarterbacks. It's still too soon to come down on the side of one QB over the other. But after hearing this, I'm all about using both.