Walking in the Shadow of a Giant
There’s no replacing Tom Brady. As good as Steve Young was back in the ’90s, which included seven Pro Bowl appearances, two MVP Awards, and a Super Bowl ring as the starting quarterback for the 49ers, his name is virtually lost in the annals of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks. When we think of the San Francisco 49ers we think of Joe Montana first, and foremost, with Young almost as an afterthought despite his Hall-of-Fame credentials.
The New England Patriots and its fans can only dream that Stidham will be nearly as good as Steve Young was back in his glory days. Like Young, Stidham is following in the footsteps of a legend, the one man who is arguably Montana’s superior, although a case can also be made for Peyton Manning without the longevity. But Jarrett Stidham, the Patriots fourth-round draft pick in 2019, has a solid college pedigree as a two-year starter for Auburn.
He also has more than a few people on his side who believe he’s a legitimate NFL talent, chief among them, Bill Belichick. “Stid worked really hard last year,” Belichick said on NFL Network. “He was our backup quarterback the entire season, and I know he’s working hard in the offseason. I know he’s made a lot of progress in terms of understanding our offense and understanding opponent defenses like all players do from Year One to Year Two. I’m sure he will get out there and be ready to go, be prepared, compete hard, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Even former college football coach, Urban Meyer, is bullish on Stidham, “You put him with Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, that system… I can’t say he’s going to be the next Tom Brady, but I’m sure he’ll have a great [year],” he said. “[Belichick] did it with Matt Cassel. He did it obviously with Tom Brady and [Jimmy Garoppolo]. They’re gonna make that quarterback a good player.”
The new-look Patriots will sport a different offense this season with schemes designed to utilize Stidham’s skills as a much more mobile quarterback than his predecessor, which will manifest in bootlegs and designed rollouts. There is little doubt the New England offense will be heavy on the running attack but that will take the pressure off of Stidham when play-action is called and the defenses are keyed more on the run than the pass.
Despite the fact that the Patriots wooed backup Brian Hoyer back to Foxboro for his third tour of duty with the Pats, his role will be more as a mentor than a challenger for the starting position. Hoyer is familiar with the coaches, the offense, and the Patriots Way which will pay dividends for Stidham if he is amenable to Hoyer’s advice. Time will tell whether or not Stid the Kid is ready for primetime but soon enough we will all know to what degree the Patriots miss Tom Brady.
Ravens & Chiefs Co-Favorites to win Super Bowl LV
The AFC has enjoyed a clear advantage over the NFC as evidenced by five of the last six Super Bowls having been won by an AFC franchise. According to the oddsmakers at the online and land-based sportsbooks, this year is no different. The Baltimore Ravens and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are either co-favorites or 1-2 in the Super Bowl odds for the 2020 season. The general consensus of bookmakers has both teams at +750 to win the Super Bowl LV followed by the Saints, Bucs, and 49ers, all tied for third at +1200 each.
The Patriots have been perennial favorites for nearly two decades but this year is certainly different in more ways than one. You would have to scan down to nearly the middle of the pack to find New England tied with the Bills, Colts, Eagles, and Seahawks, all with Super Bowl odds of +2500. And for the first time in forever, the Pats are not favored to win the AFC East as that distinction is now the province of the Bills at +125, followed closely by New England (+130), the Dolphins (+800), and the Jets (+800).
Change is in the wind and expectations are tempered for this year’s edition of the Brady-less Patriots but if anyone can defy the odds, Bill Belichick can.