Hoyer could be a decent stopgap who is very familiar with how the Patriots operate, but he's 34 years old. Hoyer isn't selling a ton of jerseys to replace those No. 12 shirts soon to collect dust in closets all over New England. By process of elimination -- we know Kessler isn't a franchise face -- Stidham is left with the best chance to succeed Brady in the long run as the team's future.
It's not entirely likely, but neither was Brady's ascent. Veteran safety Devin McCourty believes Stidham has what it takes to surprise plenty of folks in the coming months and perhaps years.
"To me, the best thing for Stiddy was that he had to go against our defense every week. He didn't have it easy," McCourty told his twin and teammate Jason McCourty on their podcast. "I love his poise. I would be faking a blitz sometimes and we'd make eye contact and he'd just start smiling and laughing.
"To me, there were weeks where he was just on point. And those were some of our best weeks as a defense, mainly because Stiddy ate us up in practice leading up to the game, and I think put more pressure on us. So I really admire just how hard he works, and then I've got to know him off the field as well. He's a really good guy. Young guy, but very mature. He's married. I think the Stidhams are going to be in New England for a long time."
McCourty's last sentence is intriguing. New England has cycled through plenty of young backups and third-stringers at the position in the Brady era, but Stidham did seem to be one of the better-equipped understudies and arrived at a good time to potentially stick. In years past, he could have hung around as a reliable long-term backup, but things have changed in Foxborough.
With Brady gone, it's not a guarantee Stidham simply succeeds him by default, takes the throne and the Patriots continue on their merry way. But the backing of two veterans with a combined 12 years in New England is a solid indicator that there might be something more there with Stidham than we realize. With No. 12 off to his pewter-and-red snowbird destination, perhaps the team shop ought to start pressing some fresh No. 4 jerseys -- and make some of the nameplates read "Stiddy" on the back.