Tom Brady packing up his family and moving into Derek Jeter's mansion left a hole six Super Bowl trophies long and 14 Pro Bowls wide in Foxborough. The New England Patriots will begin the 2020 season with a quarterback not named Brady under center for the first time since 2002. TB12 captured Super Bowl XXXVI after replacing Drew Bledsoe, and he never looked back en route to the greatest two-decade run by any player in NFL history.
He's gone. Brady signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, embracing a new challenge with head coach Bruce Arians' offense and weapons like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at his disposal. All eyes shift south, while cries that the dynasty is over echo through New England's trophy-filled offices.
New England's won at least 10 games every season since 2003 and the AFC East 11-straight years.
"The dynasty is over."
Don't make me laugh.
The Pats return the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Stephon Gilmore, plus Pro Bowl linebacker Dont'a Hightower, to the No. 1 defense in football. Three offensive linemen -- Joe Thuney, Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason -- have made All-Pro teams during their careers. A skill position stable of Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Julian Edelman, and Mohammad Sanu are a few pieces away from being elite.
Most importantly, the dynasty will likely pass to second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
Who Is Jarrett Stidham?
Stidham arrived on the national scene during his prep career at Stephenville High School in Texas, where he was 247Sports' No. 1 dual threat quarterback in America. He originally committed to play for the Baylor Bears and ascended to the starting role after starter Seth Russell went down with a season-ending injury.
At the time, Baylor was the No. 2 team in America led by Art Briles. Stidham entered as a true freshman, completing 68.9 percent of his passes and throwing 12 touchdowns against two interceptions before an ankle injury ended his first season prematurely.
Baylor's sexual abuse scandal changed everything.
Stidham transferred to McLennan Community College for one semester. He didn't play football there, then announced his transfer to the Auburn Tigers. His impact was obvious, but in hindsight, Stidham's arm talent was lost in Gus Malzahn's run-heavy offense. Stidham was named First-Team All-SEC in 2017 and beat both Alabama and Georgia en route to an SEC West Division title, but his production dropped in year two, and his draft stock went with it.
Despite being 6-foot-3 and showcasing raw talent that made him so highly coveted, Stidham slid to the 133rd overall pick where New England snatched him up.
Stuck behind a two-time NFL All-Decade Team selection, it's easy to be forgotten. But this fourth round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft earned the backup job during his rookie year and received praise from every level of the organization despite attempting just four passes last season.
An undervalued talent whose won big games, slid deep into the draft, and backed up an MVP-caliber veteran his first season. Sound familiar?
Jarrett Stidham's New England Patriots
ESPN's Todd McShay suggested Stidham isn't ready to lead New England. Draft experts believe the Pats could trade up in the first round to select a project like Utah State's Jordan Love. Some think re-signing veteran free agent Brian Hoyer -- who New England released last year after Stidham's preseason ascension -- signals a dramatic shift in which Hoyer starts, New England tanks, and they set themselves up to select Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in 2021.
Stuffing the quarterback room with overvalued players like Andy Dalton or Cam Newton in free agency isn't "the Patriot way." Stidham is raw, but he flashed accuracy, leadership, and growth every step of his career. New England's team is built to succeed just like the did in the early 2000s when Brady took over -- Own a rock solid defense, install a ball control offense, and allow your young quarterback to grow.
This isn't the end of anything. This is the true test of this dynasty and Bill Belichick's genius. Make Stidham the starting quarterback, and watch this engine re-fire all over again.
Enjoy all things sports?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.