Today the Patriots were back in full pads for practice after going with just shells on Wednesday. So that gives us a total of three full workouts plus another three or so full squad workouts in various stages of undress. And if we've learned anything at this point, it's that the starting quarterback job appears to remain wide open.
That might be exactly what some of us expected, and I'll put myself in that category. But I feel like to the world outside of New England, it was taken as a given that when they signed Cam Newton toward the end of June, that the job was automatically his. Which is understandable I guess, since Newton has been a household name since college, Jarrett Stidham was a fourth round pick last year and the ratio of jersey sales between the two is roughly equivalent to how many Bumble hookups Ryan Reynolds would get vs. how many I'd get.
But I've been sold on Stidham all along, based on his experience in an offensive system that is not for everyone, but also his natural ability that was wasted at Auburn. Still, Newton's talent and experience in other systems is undeniable. So I was expecting it to be playing out pretty much as it has.
Here's how Bill Belichick explained it Wednesday during his FaceTime sesh with reporters:
Q: Do you feel like you can continue to split reps with the quarterbacks throughout training camp? Or will there be a point where you need to decide on what the plan is going to be because you have to start getting ready for Week 1?
BB: Well, obviously, there’s some point where that’s going to happen. But, right now, we want to try to, like I said, give everybody an opportunity to get the basics, and we’re really doing that at all the positions. I mean, everybody’s rotating through and we’re trying to give everybody an opportunity to run the basic plays, get the basic fundamentals down. Yeah, of course at some point, we’ll have to not equalize the reps – I mean, that’s obvious – but we’re not there now.
So when those reps start going to one QB or the other, we'll start to get some idea of which way the coaches are leaning. But for the time being, it's anybody's job to win.
At least that's how it appears at the moment. But I'm not sure how these things are supposed to work. You'll have to forgive me for not knowing. Sure, I've been attached to this franchise at the emotions since I was in elementary school. So I've seen enough quarterback controversies to last me a lifetime. But it's just been so long since the last one, I ... can ... hardly ... remember ...
[Jump cut to August of 1992. En Vogue's "My Lovin' (Never Gonna Get It) plays.]
I'm a brash young man sharing a house with three other guys. I'm rocking jorts and day glo jackets and I've got a girlfriend who's way out of my league and inexplicably into me. I've also got blue-black hair - like Superman hair - and a burgeoning stand-up career thanks to winning the WBCN Boston Comedy Riot the year before. My go-to bits are impressions of Red Sox manager Joe Morgan and George W. Bush and a routine about the Gulf War and I'm confident I can use them forever. Gas is a $1.17 a gallon, an average house in the 'burbs is under $150,000 and the entertainment option of choice are Mom & Pop video stores at the strip mall. And they've all got a set of swinging saloon doors in the back where you can walk out with an unmarked adult VHS and your very public shame. Me? I prefer "Seinfeld." Or to take my first long-term girlfriend out to see a movie, like this little thing by an obscure first time director named Quentin Tarantino called "Reservoir Dogs." It's not about talking animals.
The Patriots? They have hit rock bottom. Which is to say, yet another of the rock bottoms they were guaranteed to hit every five years or so in an endless cycle. But this time, they've dug deep below rock bottom and drilled down into the core of the Earth. The new team owner is from the Anheiser-Busch family and threatening to move them to St. Louis. The head coach is Dick MacPherson, a lovable, upbeat, hugging bear of man who is uniquely unsuited to coaching professional rage monsters. Once again the team has been sifting through the rest of the NFL's transient quarterback population, plus whatever of their own draft picks have made the roster. In this season, it's free agent signees Hugh Millen and Jeff Carlson, and homegrown picks Tommy Hodson and a rookie named Scott Zolak. And they're looking for some qualified body to line up under center most weeks.
In the end, Millen wins the job, thanks to his stellar career W-L of 7-16. And that one game winning drive he put on the season before that actually had some in the press pushing the nickname "Hughdini." All four of those quarterbacks would end up getting starts. With Zolak winning the only two games on the way to the Patriots worst-in-the-league 2-14 record. Everyone was fired in the offseason. Bill Parcells was hired. The uniform was changed. The No. 1 pick was used to draft Drew Bledsoe. I eventually gave up jorts and got married. The rest, as they say, is history. And there hasn't been a moment's doubt as to who the QB1 on this team would be ever since.
Until now. For the first time in 28 years we're waiting to see how it plays out before we know who the starting quarterback will be. It's a strange sensation. I honestly don't know how fans in other markets go through it. Do you root for one particular guy? Hope the other one fails? Do you form strong opinions based on training camp reports? If so, what do you make of these?
So Stidham, Hoyer and Newton have all taken turns excelling with laser-guided accuracy and then throwing the ball all over place into the wrong hands. This is what a QB competition looks like, I guess. Like I said, it's been too long. But this is our reality in 2020. So gird your loins. Until someone emerges as the leader, it's going to be a long camp.