The New England Patriots will not win the AFC East for the first time in 11 years. So, too, a wild-card bid is a longshot for Bill Belichick's 6-7 squad, which sits two games back with three to play.
Cam Newton's struggles as a passer have been evident this season, culminating in last Thursday's blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams in which the QB completed just 9 of 16 attempts for 119 yards with an INT and four sacks taken.
Jarrett Stidham replaced Newton late in the contest, completing 5 of 7 passes for 27 yards with two sacks in three drives.
Despite Newton's struggles, Belichick isn't ready to see more of Stidham. Asked Monday on WEEI Radio in Boston if he'd be open to playing both QBs, the coach said he's not to the point of tweaking the position yet.
"That's not where we are right now. We're not there now," the Pats coach said.
Asked if he turned to Stidham on Thursday because he thought it was the team's best shot to come back, Belichick responded: "Wanted to give him the opportunity to play, so we did," he said, noting Newton was taking some big hits in the game.
While there was speculation during training camp that Stidham and Newton were battling for the starting gig, that was overblown. In the one game Newton missed due to COVID-19, it was Brian Hoyer, not Stidham, who got the start.
Given the uncertain nature of the Patriots future at quarterback with Newton on a one-year deal, it's interesting that Belichick isn't electing for an elongated tryout for Stidham. Perhaps Belichick is waiting until he's officially eliminated from the playoffs. Perhaps he's planning to ride Newton to the end of the road.
At the very least, it'd make sense for the Patriots to see Stidham in more game-action to be certain he isn't a potential long-term answer. If Belichick never gives the backup a shot this season -- even in split duties with Newton -- he's likely insinuating Stidham isn't his answer moving forward.