State of the New England Patriots Position by Position: Quarterback

Randolph CharlotinAnalyst IIFebruary 9, 2014

Mallett (15) has been fortunate to watch Brady for three years, but what has Mallett learned?
Mallett (15) has been fortunate to watch Brady for three years, but what has Mallett learned?Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It has been a week since the NFL Championship was settled. The victors have been celebrated while the vanquished reflected on what went wrong. Here in New England, thoughts are on how to get their hands on the Lombardi Trophy again.

In this series, the Patriots will be analyzed one position at a time. This week, we will review all offensive positions starting with quarterback. The defense will be reviewed the following week.

Signed: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett

Free Agents: None

Ryan Mallett doesn’t have it. An NFL pocket passer build? Yup. A rocket arm? Without a doubt. The ability to deliver the ball anywhere on the field? You know it.

But can Mallett take his ideal physical abilities, combine it with his three years NFL education and be the successor to Tom Brady? I don’t see it.

Giving up on a player with so much potential is hard to do, but at some point, it has to be done. Mallett should be a lot better than what he’s shown over the years. Yes he developed some, but never did he make any visible quantum leap to suggest he could be an NFL starter or even a decent backup.

To be fair, Matt Cassel didn’t show much as New England’s backup. But when Brady went down for the year in the 2008 season opener, Cassel took the opportunity and proved to be a productive starter.

The difference: Cassel was a seventh-round pick with next to no expectations while Mallett was rated higher than his actual draft selection.

Mallett (left) didn't attempt a pass in 2013.
Mallett (left) didn't attempt a pass in 2013.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

His selection in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft was a surprise as some analysts believed Mallett had first-round ability/potential. What many experts questioned was Mallett’s maturity. But going to New England was viewed as a perfect situation for Mallett.

A veteran locker room was the exact environment that Mallett needed to be in for him to mature and become a professional. He was going to learn how to play the game by watching and learning from Brady. Tom freakin’ Brady! It just doesn’t get better than that.

Three years later, all Mallett has to show for his career is one completion out of four attempts for 17 yards and an interception.

It’s not like Mallett gave any reason for optimism. He never completed 60 percent of his passes during the preseason. Mallett was slightly outplayed by Brian Hoyer in 2011, but investing a third-round selection in Mallett made Hoyer, formerly a rookie free agent, expendable.

And if Mallett still doesn’t show significant improvement, he should be expendable as well.

At the very least, the Patriots need to bring in competition to test Mallett. The 2014 quarterback class has good depth that could push a few players down into later rounds.

With the way the league is changing, it would be ideal for New England to add an athletic passer to the competition. With all three division rivals with mobile quarterbacks, having one behind Brady would be really beneficial for the defense when the scout team is running opponents’ plays during practice.

If Missouri's James Franklin becomes a Patriot, he could be the second Franklin to wear the No. 1 like Tony Franklin did from 1984-87.
If Missouri's James Franklin becomes a Patriot, he could be the second Franklin to wear the No. 1 like Tony Franklin did from 1984-87.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

If Clemson’s Tajh Boyd somehow slips through the first two rounds, he would be a value selection with a high completion percentage that the Patriots value. A lesser name to keep in mind is Missouri’s James Franklin. He’s worth a look late in the draft or as a rookie free agent.

Of more importance, Brady will turn 37 before the 2014-15 season starts. Brady had one of his better seasons considering his struggles waiting for four new receivers to learn the offense and all of the adjustments.

How long Brady will continue to perform this well is the concern. Brady says he would like to continue playing beyond 40, but playing at an elite level into his 40s remains to be seen.

If the Patriots do add a rookie quarterback and sign him for four years, Brady will turn 41 by the time that rookie contract is in the final year in 2017. That will be plenty of time to see if Brady’s backup is able and ready to replace Brady or if Brady is still the franchise and New England should explore trading the talented reserve.


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