By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There are a number of roster battles that will be held at several positions this summer for the New England Patriots. The position of quarterback is not one of them.
No, that job belongs solely to Tom Brady, who will be continuing his assault on the NFL and the record books. The fact that Brady has been starting games in the NFL since before the first Harry Potter film hit theaters does kind of get overlooked at times, despite the fact that his age is uttered and repeated roughly every four seconds in New England. It’s quite an impressive run.
But all of that history won’t really have an effect at all on the 2018 season. For the Patriots to reach their expected level in 2018, they’re going to need another exceptional season out of Brady.
Here’s a look at the quarterback situation as the Patriots enter camp.
(Virtual) Roster Locks
On The Bubble
Nick Caserio (What? He’s been known to sling the ol’ pigskin at practice, and Brady says his throwing form is “terrible.”)
Let’s start with the backups. It would be very, very, very (very) strange for the Patriots to carry two quarterbacks this year, given the current personnel. If Brady were to go down for any stretch of time, the team would need a capable backup to keep the ship afloat. Seventh-round pick Danny Etling is not in position to do that. Not yet, anyway. So Hoyer’s job should be safe.
At the same time, so should Etling’s. It’s not that being drafted in the seventh round guarantees a spot on a roster. Far from it. But, with Jimmy Garoppolo now long gone (as one of the richest celebrities in the world!), the Patriots have officially re-entered the business of developing a young quarterback. Eventually, some day, (maybe) Brady will retire or move on, and the Patriots will need another quarterback. Maybe the Patriots believe that can be Etling. Maybe they don’t. Either way, they’re likely going to give the kid a chance to learn the playbook and see how he performs in practice for a year.
While we’re on the subject of backups, allow me to share what may be the most underrated/unknown statistic related to the one and only Brian Hoyer. Here it is. Are you ready? Here we go.
As the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Football Browns from 2013-14, Brian Hoyer compiled a win-loss record of 10-6. In the 16 games not started by Hoyer in those years, the Browns went 1-15. One-and-fifteen! And since 2015, when Hoyer left and went to Houston, the Cleveland Football Browns have gone 4-44.
To reiterate: With Hoyer as their starter in 2013 and 2014, the Cleveland Browns went 10-6. In Cleveland Browns games since 2012 where Hoyer was not the starting quarterback, the Cleveland Browns went 10-69. That’s a .625 winning percentage with Hoyer, and a .127 winning percentage with anyone else at quarterback.
What’s most remarkable about the whole thing is that Hoyer didn’t play exceptionally well. He completed 56 percent of his passes (bad) for an average of 7.4 yards per attempt (good) while throwing 17 touchdowns (not great) and 16 interceptions (bad). So he was no savior. But somehow, he was the magic elixir that made the Cleveland Browns win more often than they lost. That’s really something.
Anyway, if everything goes right for the Patriots in 2018, Hoyer won’t play any meaningful snaps. Brady is going to be old (we’ve covered that), but he’s coming off an MVP season. It’s been a bit of an odd offseason, with Brady skipping optional practices and workouts, but lost in the hubbub of all that “controversy” was the fact that Brady is one of the most psychotically driven athletes to ever play any sport. That’s how he’s become the consensus greatest of all time at the most demanding position in team sports, and it’s why there should be no real worries about Brady’s commitment or abilities.
Of course, we’ll all be looking for signs of slippage. If he makes a bad pass, was it just a bad pass, or a sign of his age? If he stays down a few extra ticks after absorbing a mighty blow from an angry linebacker, is that a normal reaction or is his body beginning to fail him? If he and a receiver aren’t on the same page, was it just something that happens in a football game or was it a direct result of Brady skipping a light practice in May?
We’re certain to over-analyze everything. We’ll be wrong about most of it. But if Brady can continue playing the way he has for the last four years (129 TDs, 26 INTs)? We really ought to appreciate it. We’ll never see anything like it again.