Ever since Tom Brady fled for Tampa Bay, there have been countless media reports about how much the Patriots like Jarrett Stidham and their chances with him as their quarterback.
Stidham could end up being Tom Brady Jr. when it comes to second-season heroics, but that doesn't change the fact that the media speculation about how the team currently feels about him has been largely wrong to this point.
Just because you end at a certain place doesn't mean the initial reports were right. Stidham could end up the starter and play great, but the team could have been lukewarm about his prospects this entire offseason.
There were hardly any reports before Brady became a free agent about Stidham's possibility of success. But after Brady left and the Patriots, by virtue of their cap situation, were only left with Stidham and Brian Hoyer at quarterback, suddenly Stidham was the anointed one.
I wonder what changed. Did Stidham suddenly get better since the season was over? Did he impress the coaches via Zoom? Of course not. Brady left, Stidham was the only QB left, so why not have some optimism?
Anything beyond that, any reports describing Stidham as the plan, or about how the Patriots know he has the making of the next franchise quarterback are just ... well, they're hogwash.
How do I know? Well, for starters, multiple team sources told me after the season — well before Brady's future was known or declared — that the team was pleased where Stidham was (similar to the spot to where Jimmy Garoppolo was after his first season), thought he had a chance to be a good player, but there much unknown about him. All things being equal, he likely needed at least another year of seasoning before really tackling the position.
But there's also this: the Patriots don't anoint anyone anything before they earn it on the field. That's just a fact. Here's another fact: the Patriots had no idea what they had in Brady before he had to go in against the Jets after Drew Bledsoe was injured, and the team largely played around Brady's limitations on the way to the Super Bowl and beyond.
Let me state that a little clearer, for those that think the Patriots did X, Y and Z because of Stidham: the man who would go on to become the greatest QB in NFL history didn't get the benefit of the doubt from Bill Belichick or the other coaches going into his second season. In fact, Brady barely beat out Damon Huard to be the backup for that season. The oft-told tale that Belichick knew Brady was going to be great, was better than Bledsoe and just was waiting for his chance to bench Bledsoe, is just a fallacy.
How do I know that? Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis told me back in 2016 for a Sports Illustrated story:
...let’s set the story straight on a bit of mythology surrounding the quarterback’s rise: Pats coach Bill Belichick was not looking for a reason to bench starter Drew Bledsoe back in 2001 when Jets linebacker Mo Lewis hit the QB so hard that he put Bledsoe in the hospital. Actually, another New England passer, Damon Huard, very well could have been the man to fill Bledsoe's shoes—the competition was that close.
“Oh no, no, no, no,” Weis says of that popular tale, the one that has Brady, a Belichick draft pick, waiting in the wings behind owner Robert Kraft’s preferred leader, Bledsoe. “[Brady] wasn’t better than Bledsoe. In fact he wasn’t much better than [Huard]. Bledsoe was clearly the starter. The No. 2 spot, that’s where the competition was. We really could have flipped a coin to pick the second guy. We ended up picking Tommy—but it was really close.”
It's also been confirmed to me by several other team sources in the years since: