Frank Ammirante | April 3rd, 2020
The New England Patriots decided to part ways with legendary quarterback Tom Brady this off-season, leaving the team with a massive hole to fill under center. This year’s quarterback market was the best that we’ve seen in years. Philip Rivers landed in Indianapolis, Teddy Bridgewater signed in Carolina, and Nick Foles was traded to Chicago – the Patriots showed no interest. Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, and Andy Dalton remain available, but the Patriots have not pursued them.
Instead, the team has opted to sign former backup quarterback Brian Hoyer due to his familiarity with their offensive scheme. Despite more proven options available, the Patriots appear to be comfortable moving forward with Jarrett Stidham as their starting quarterback. The question is, why?
After a promising freshman season, Stidham opted to transfer from Baylor due to the sexual assault scandal that resulted in the firing of head coach Art Briles. He spent a year studying at McLennan Community College before turning in impressive production in his first season at Auburn. While his numbers declined in 2018, one anonymous NFL scout stated that he was a victim of a “dysfunctional offense” that had a “bad offensive line” with receivers who “couldn’t get open.” This makes some sense because the 2018 Tigers lost talented players such as running back Kerryon Johnson.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein described as a “mobile quarterback with good mechanics and intelligence,” classifying him as a “good backup who could become a starter in the future.” Daniel Jeremiah compared Stidham to Derek Carr, praising the former’s ability to fit throws into tight windows and throw accurately on the run. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller praised Stidham for his quick release and ability to put touch on downfield throws. The prevailing criticism for Stidham was his decline in production, with a disappointing 2018 season at Auburn after a promising campaign in the previous year. This factor along with middling physical traits caused him to fall to the end of the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
There have been glowing practice reports coming from Patriots’ teammates. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi reports that James White spoke highly of Stidham’s ability to digest the team’s complex playbook. Pro Bowl defensive back Devin McCourty praised Stidham’s poise and work ethic, explaining that “Stiddy ate us up in practice.” Safety Terrence Brooks was in awe of some of Stidham’s throws, impressed by the quarterback’s development as the season progressed. Even head coach Bill Belichick was impressed by Stidham’s intelligence and preparation. These are promising signs for Stidham’s outlook in 2020.
After reviewing his college production and scouting report, it’s evident that Stidham has starting potential. After watching the Patriots pass on proven quarterbacks in free agency, it’s easy to see their confidence in his ability. After listening to glowing reports from teammates, it’s hard not to be optimistic about his outlook. We have seen former Patriots backups have success in the past. Matt Cassel led the team to an 11-5 record in 2008 and had one strong season as starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010. Jacoby Brissett had a couple of decent years with the Indianapolis Colts. Jimmy Garoppolo just led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl berth. Even Hoyer went on to start for the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns. It’s clear that Belichick and his staff know how to find capable quarterbacks in the draft.
I had a strange dream about a week ago. It was the 2020 AFC Championship Game and the Patriots were leading the Chiefs 35-6 at Arrowhead with five minutes left in the third quarter. Jarrett Stidham was shredding the Chiefs’ defense, with over 200 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was a weird dream because I’m not even a Patriots fan. While it’s hard to see this type of success for Stidham, I can see the Patriots remaining competitive with the former Auburn quarterback at the helm. I believe that his intelligence, poise, and work ethic will help him develop into a solid starter. It’s time to stop considering the Patriots as potential destinations for free-agent quarterbacks or promising draft prospects. It’s time to start viewing Stidham as the starting quarterback going forward. He’s certainly got big shoes to fill, but I’m optimistic about his future.
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