After 283 regular season starts and 41 playoff starts across 20 seasons, the 2020 season will mark the first time since the start of the century in which the New England Patriots will be without Tom Brady on their roster. After signing a two-year, $50M deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots will hope the next few years will bring a positive change of scenery.
Despite signing veteran Brian Hoyer to a one-year deal, the team is reportedly set to develop Jarrett Stidham for the upcoming season and beyond. This begs two questions: Who is Jarrett Stidham and how serious are the Patriots about him as a long-term solution?
Unique College Career
Out of high school, Stidham was the #2-ranked dual-threat quarterback in his respective class. He received offers from prestigious programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and more. After weighing all options, Stidham elected to play at Baylor under head coach Art Briles.
Stidham played in 10 games for Baylor, and started in three after starting quarterback Seth Russell went down with a neck injury. Towards the end of the season, Stidham was forced to miss three games due to an ankle injury.
Despite finishing the season 10-3, Baylor moved on from Briles after a scandal made it difficult to retain him moving forward. As a result, Stidham entered the transfer portal. After one semester of community college, he joined Auburn University in his return to Division I football.
In his two seasons at Auburn, Stidham played in a total of 27 games, totaling 5,952 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. During his final season, he suffered a decline in almost every passing category.
Mid-Round Draft Pick
Considering the 2019 NFL Draft class was particulary weak at the quarterback position, the Patriots didn’t feel the need to draft a backup option to Brady in the early rounds. Instead, the team drafted four offensive players and two defensive players prior to selecting Stidham in the fourth round with the 133rd pick.
The timing to selecting a quarterback of the future made sense, considering an 11-5 regular season record in 2018 was the worst outing for the Patriots since 2009; a year in which they finished with a 10-6 record.
While the talent and sample size are questionable factors, Stidham played at a high level during preseason last August. In fact, he finished with the second-most passing yards among quarterbacks. His game logs went as follows:
- @ Detroit: 14/24, 179 passing yards, 1 TD, 95.7 QBR
- @ Tennessee: 14/19, 193 passing yards, 1 TD, 123.4 QBR
- vs Carolina: 15/19, 134 passing yards, 96.1 QBR
- vs New York Giants: 18/28, 225 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 98.1 QBR
There are multiple factors that lead us to believe Jarrett Stidham is at least the answer for the Patriots in 2020. During a conference call with runnign back James White, he praised the competitive nature of Stidham:
“He came in and competed right away,” White said. “Our offense can be pretty complex, and he was willing to learn, willing to take coaching. He was fighting no matter what the situation is.”
Even with the Coronavirus pandemic, players are still supporting Stidham at all costs. Wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who was drafted three rounds prior to Stidham, plans to work out with the quarterback if OTA’s are canceled later this year.
The signs are pointing in the right direction, and successful play in the 2020 season could delay any upcoming quarterback search the Patriots may (or may not) have thought about.