I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Patriots fans, but 2020 is going to be a rough one, at least in the eyes of Madden. Will Brinson of CBS Sports and the Pick Six Podcast crunched the numbers, running multiple Madden simulations to see which of New England’s post-Tom Brady quarterback options would fare best. The answer? None of them.
We knew Brady, a future Hall of Famer with six Super Bowl rings to boot, would be a tough act to follow in Foxboro. But just how big a drop-off will New England experience in its first year sans Brady? Judging by the simulations, a pretty steep one. Brinson got the ball rolling by simming what the Pats would look like with Jameis Winston under center. Brady’s Tampa Bay predecessor fared surprisingly well from a statistical vantage point, compiling 30 touchdown passes while seeing his interception total shrink to just 10 (perhaps Madden factored in his recent LASIK surgery). However, Winston’s heroics weren’t enough to escape New England’s fate as an AFC laughingstock, ultimately guiding the Patriots to a dismal 5-11 record. That would be the Pats’ worst mark since Bill Belichick’s first year on the job in 2000 (Brady attempted just three passes that season while serving as Drew Bledsoe’s backup).
Another potential Patriots target Cam Newton, whose Panthers career ended with the arrival of Teddy Bridgewater last week, didn’t fare much better, shepherding the Pats to a lousy 6-10 record in Brinson’s simulation. That’s not what the doctor ordered, though 6-10 is still far preferable to 2-14, the record New England sported with future Bengals trade casualty Andy Dalton calling the shots in Foxboro.
Dalton seems like the type of player New England would pursue—experienced, cerebral, low-maintenance—but going off Brinson’s simulations, the Pats would be better off staying in house with Jarrett Stidham. The 2019 fourth-rounder was serviceable in preseason play last summer (67.8 completion percentage, four touchdowns, one interception), but apparently that success didn’t carry over into 2020 with Stidham leading New England to an uncharacteristically sluggish 6-10 mark on Madden.
Brinson left a few stones unturned—he didn’t run a simulation for Jacoby Brissett, who could be on the Pats’ radar with newcomer Philip Rivers at the helm in Indianapolis. Incoming rookies (Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, etc.) were similarly omitted from Brinson’s data, though the CBS analyst did explore one particularly intriguing possibility. Former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco could be a fit for New England’s QB vacancy after being pink-slipped by the Broncos last week. The Patriots still fell short of the playoffs in Flacco’s sim, though 7-9 seems downright tolerable compared to some of the bleaker scenarios in Brinson’s study.
Those familiar with Jon Bois’ iconic Breaking Madden series have no doubt seen some bizarre simulations, though this one may take the cake. The Patriots probably haven’t considered the possibility of handing their QB reigns to Julian Edelman, but Brinson has. The veteran wide receiver hasn’t played quarterback since his days at Kent State, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The Pats’ offense was predictably anemic with Edelman in the saddle (3-13 record), though his starting tenure was still more successful than the 2-14 horror show New England endured under Dalton’s disastrous reign.
That’s quite an indictment of Dalton, though maybe a train wreck of the highest order is exactly what the Patriots need. Winning two games would be a tough pill to swallow after two decades of unprecedented dominance, but if it puts New England in a better position to draft its next franchise quarterback (many would consider tanking for Trevor Lawrence), it could be worth it for the Pats to take their lumps in 2020.