There are many reasons why the New England Patriots are the winningest NFL team since 2000, and one of the biggest reasons for their success is consistently winning the turnover battle.
Not making foolish mistakes/decisions with the football is extremely important, and the Patriots often excel in this area. Lots of the credit for that belongs to Tom Brady. The veteran quarterback has thrown fewer than 10 interceptions in seven of the last 10 seasons. The Patriots led the league with a plus-21 turnover margin in 2019, and they finished in the top five of turnover margin in five of the last six years.
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Maintaining this success will be tougher in 2020 after Brady left the Patriots in free agency and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March.
Jarrett Stidham is the most likely replacement for Brady as New England's starting quarterback, and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi has some wise advice for the 2019 draft pick ahead of the new season.
"Just take care of the football, " Bruschi told WBZ's Dan Roche. "Offensive line, put the gumption on yourselves. Get that running game going. Stidham is going to be fine. He's got a great mentality. I think it's something where having a little experience of being with Tom is going to help him and realize, 'It's not Tom Brady I'm following, it's just a buddy of mine and now I've got to come in and do the job.' I think he has the right mentality to do that."
Taking care of the football is, of course, easier said than done. And one of the quickest ways to lose Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's trust is by not protecting the football.
There are reasons to believe Stidham can handle the job, though. He showed flashes of his impressive potential during training camp, the preseason and various regular season practices in 2019, and many of his teammates and college coaches have been singing his praises all offseason.
The transition from backup to starter has been made tougher for Stidham due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Normal on-field offseason activities have been put on hold, but the young quarterback has taken a leadership role by organizing private throwing sessions with teammates, including wide receiver Julian Edelman. The more chemistry Stidham can develop with his offensive teammates, the better chance he'll have of protecting the football in his second season.