Bill Belichick's Monday conference call provided media members a chance to ask him that question -- you know, what will life after Tom Brady be like?
Belichick, as usual, showed no alarm. He expressed appreciation for Brady's many contributions to the Patriots franchise over the last two decades, but also made sure to point out his team has found ways to win without Brady before, and they're ready to attempt it again.
"Everything we did, every single decision we made in terms of major planning, was made with the idea of how to make things best for Tom Brady," Belichick said. "Now, with that being said, we've had several situations where we had to play and we knew Tom wasn't going to be the quarterback. So, that would go back to [Matt] Cassel and Jimmy [Garoppolo] and Jacoby [Brissett] and situations like that. And so, in those situations, now they were in season -- although Matt Cassel's situation ended up being for 15 games -- but whatever those situations were, we adapted what we had to the player and -- Cassel would be a good example -- we geared everything towards doing what was best for him, just like we always geared everything for doing what was best for Tom and to help our offense there.
"I don't really see that changing. Whoever the quarterback is, we'll try to make things work smoothly and efficiently for that player and take advantage of his strengths and his skills. Each of us has different skills. Each quarterback has a different skill set, and whatever things that particular player does well, we'll try to work towards and feature, or at least give him an opportunity to do those."
Currently, the Patriots have two candidates lined up to potentially replace Brady: veteran Brian Hoyer, who spent time in the past as Brady's understudy, and youngster Jarrett Stidham, who filled such a role last season. Either is serviceable, and Stidham's potential is still largely unknown. After all, Brady wasn't exactly penciled in to become a future Hall of Famer entering the 2001 season.
"Well, we've spent quite a bit of time with both Brian [Hoyer] and Stid. I think we have a pretty good -- Josh [McDaniels] and myself -- certainly have a pretty good feel for both those players," Belichick said. "The circumstances will be different this year and we'll see how everything plays out. But again, to start with, I think the main thing is to give everyone a chance to compete, to get people comfortable with the position and the skills that they're playing, the communication that's involved."
Competition is the name of the game and especially so in New England this year, but there's also an opening for a third contender. The Patriots could spend a high pick on a quarterback, something they've shown in the past they're unafraid of doing.
Things are different now, of course, with Brady being gone and the job being open for the taking. There isn't a sense the Patriots are desperate, though, which allows Belichick to sit back and survey the entire situation much like Brady once did from the pocket.
He described the quarterback prospect landscape in one word: interesting.
"There's quite a range of players and some of the systems that they play in in college are different, either than what we run or what traditional NFL systems would look like, and some are more closely schematically to that," Belichick said. "Each guy has his own set of skills; he has his own circumstances. Some players have played well over a sustained period of time; some players have had an exceptional year in the past year or two -- maybe 2019, in some cases 2018 -- and then for whatever the reasons were, the two years didn't quite match up. But, that's I'd say about the way it always is.
"There are always a variety of things you have to try to put together and look at, but certainly there's a lot of interesting players and guys who have really good arms, can really throw the ball and some very athletic players, some players that have won a lot of games and have shown their competitiveness and instinctiveness. So, interesting group and probably one that has decent depth to it."