It's official, keys have been handed to Stidham

Associated PressJarrett Stidham, here throwing during training camp last summer, looks like a sure bet to be the next starting quarterback of the New England Patriots now that Andy Dalton his signed with the Cowboys.

It’s now “officially” official. Jarrett Stidham is the New England Patriots’ new franchise quarterback.

With news that the interception-throwing but experienced red-head from the Bengals, Andy Dalton, signed on as a backup/possible future starter with the Dallas Cowboys, the writing was on the wall.

Dalton was the only plausible — cheap, experienced with some previous success — guy that Patriots football CEO Bill Belichick could’ve brought in as competition for Stidham.

Brian Hoyer, who says he signed here because he was told he could compete for the starting job, is a backup, whether he likes it or not. In fact, Stidham already beat him out last summer and he was released before the start of the 2019 season.

There were opportunities for interesting reclamation projects, like Jameis Winston and Cam Newton. Then, there were options in the draft, with the Patriots having shots to select the third (Jordan Love), fourth (Jalen Hurts) and fifth (Jacob Eason) QB.

Belichick passed on all of them.

The only guy we “experts” saw as a legit signee was Dalton, after his impending release by the Bengals.

Belichick passed again.

Stidham is an interesting cat.

You had to be impressed with his play last August. He was cool, poised, accurate and he seemed to forge a relationship with a few of the young receivers.

Basically, he looked like someone to work with.

One easy slam on Stidham was his lone performance in a “real” game, entering a 30-8 route of the N.Y. Jets on Sept. 22 with 8:41 remaining in the game.

He lasted four plays — 11-yard completion, sack, 3-yard completion and pick-6 — and just over two minutes.

He only attempted one other pass (incomplete) two weeks later, and that was it.

The fact that Belichick didn’t throw Stidham another carrot the rest of the year seemed to be a message.

But the one thing we on the outside don’t have access to is practice. And as you know, every practice is taped and broken down like a game.

Brady had several weeks where he rested his achy right elbow and Stidham took starter reps in practice. Some decision-making had to be part of those snaps on.

This is not the first time Belichick has found and possibly identified a franchise quarterback through meager draft capital, with Brady a sixth rounder, Jimmy Garoppolo a second rounder, and now Stidham, a fourth-rounder.

Stidham has a few things going for him, similar to the guy he’s replacing. He was under-appreciated playing big-time college football, with some highlights that compare to the bonus babies drafted early in the first round.

There is another factor in place ... replacing a legend.

The failure rate isn’t good. In fact, other than Aaron Rodgers replacing Brett Favre, the failure rate is probably in the high 90s.

There are some that believe Stidham’s season is a ruse, a stopgap between getting a real-deal guy in next year’s draft with a top six pick.

Don’t believe it. Belichick is trying to win now and win with Stidham.

If it doesn’t work out?

There’s no Plan B, only Plan Belichick, which is building toward something else, post-Brady.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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