By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The preseason is over. Hallelujah.

For veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer, though, the preseason ended a few weeks ago. Hoyer has stood by idly for the entirety of the Patriots’ third and fourth preseason games, serving as a spectator for the Jarrett Stidham show.

Considering Hoyer had performed quite well — 18-for-22 for 202 yards with two touchdowns and a pick — during his playing time in preseason Weeks 1 and 2, his absence has created some healthy speculation from the outside as to what Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio might do when it comes to paring down the roster this weekend.

Certainly, having a reliable veteran backup like Hoyer around could prove very useful if Tom Brady needs to miss time — whether that’s a few series or a few weeks. (Any absence longer than that, and it probably doesn’t matter much who the backup is.)

But in his four weeks on the field in the preseason, has Jarrett Stidham done enough to show he’s capable of handling that moment, should it arise?

We don’t know the complete answer just yet. We will by Saturday at 4 p.m. at the latest. But we humans are an impatient beast. So in the interest of comparison, we can look at the last time a Patriots rookie quarterback forced the veteran backup out of town with a strong preseason performance. That took place five years ago, in 2014, way back when the Patriots only had three Lombardi Trophies locked up in their fancy trophy cases in Foxboro.

Seems like a lifetime ago.

Anyways, that summer, second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo immediately showed a grasp of the offense and a comfort level in game situations that the Patriots deemed Ryan Mallett to have been expendable. The Patriots shipped Mallett to Houston for a sixth-round pick, leaving the rookie Jimmy G. as the lone backup to Brady.

Stats are only part of the story, but stats are all we have right now. So, for the sake of comparison:

Jimmy Garoppolo, 2014
46-for-79 (58.2%)
618 yards, 7.8 Y/A
5 TDs, 1 INT
3 sacks
4 rushes for 8 yards

Jarrett Stidham, 2018
61-for-90 (67.8%)
731 yards, 8.1 Y/A
4 TDs, 1 INT
102.6 rating
9 sacks
17 rushes for 88 yards

It’s far from scientific, but based solely on the passing numbers … it looks as though Stidham has cleared the bar set by Garoppolo in 2014.

Another rookie quarterback who earned the lone backup job was … Hoyer himself, back in 2009. The competition against Kevin O’Connell, Andrew Walter, and Matt Gutierrez wasn’t exactly fierce. Nevertheless:

Brian Hoyer, 2009
29-for-44 (65.9%)
354 yards, 8.0 Y/A
1 TD, 0 INT
4 sacks
7 rushes for 23 yards

For a look at a rookie quarterback who didn’t quite make the Patriots feel comfortable to let a veteran backup leave town, check these out.

Danny Etling, 2018
20-for-38 (52.6%)
178 yards, 4.7 Y/A
1 TD, 2 INTs
3 sacks
10 rushes for 120 yards

Jacoby Brissett, 2016
38-for-56 (67.9%)
387 yards, 6.9 Y/A
1 TD, 0 INTs
6 sacks
8 rushes for 46 yards

Ryan Mallett, 2011
36-for-63 (57.1%)
357 yards, 5.7 Y/A
1 TD, 1 INT
6 sacks
5 rushes for 2 yards

Kevin O’Connell, 2008
15-for-32 (46.9%)
140 yards, 4.4 Y/A
1 TD, 2 INT
2 sacks
7 rushes for 46 yards and 1 TD

Matt Cassel, 2005
27-for-54 (50.0%)
256 yards, 4.7 Y/A
1 TD, 1 INT
7 sacks
6 rushes for 32 yards

And just for fun:

Tom Brady, 2000
22-for-32 (68.8%)
254 yards, 7.9 Y/A
1 TD, 0 INT
5 sacks
2 rushes for minus-2 yards

Clearly, Stidham’s stats are much more in line with Garoppolo’s in 2014 than any of those other rookie preseasons. Does that mean Stidham’s performance has made Hoyer expendable? We’ll find out for sure in the coming 24 hours, but the body of work at this point seems to indicate that the answer will be yes.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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