Former Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham has continued to wow both general managers and fans alike. The former Tiger can easily be forgotten with all the first-round drama at the quarterback position that happened in April, but once Stidham stepped on the field teams had to be scratching their heads wondering why they didn’t pick this guy up.
Stidham was drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft by the New England Patriots in their efforts to find the heir apparent to Tom Brady. While Stidham has been impressive — in fact the most impressive rookie — he is not Brady. Let’s go ahead and put that to bed. It is going to be nearly impossible for Stidham to replicate what Brady could, but with the league that is more pass-happy and protective of quarterbacks than ever, look for Stidham to put up some numbers.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback didn’t jump off the screen last year like he did in his first year at Auburn primarily due to his offensive line being banged up. Stidham was running for his life on Saturdays and wasn’t able to show off his arm talent. Most throws were on the run or off his back foot, therefore he couldn’t step into those throws and deliver a solid ball.
In his first preseason game Stidham passed for 179 yards on 14-for-24 attempts and a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. He followed up his good game with an even better one against the Tennessee Titans going 14 of 19 passing with 193 yards and another touchdown. Less attempts with more yards and a higher completion percentage, that’s week-to-week progress.
His third and most recent game he mustered 134 yards on 15 of 19 passing with no score in a nail biter against the Carolina Panthers, who are going to have one of the better defenses at the end of the year when all is said and done.
The most impressive part of Stidham’s preseason isn’t the 500 passing yards he has accumulated in roughly six quarters of play but his lack of turning the football over. First-round quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins of the Washington Redskins and Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals have already turned the ball over multiple times and haven’t looked like half the quarterback Stidham has with his poise and delivery.
The person most impressed by Stidham is the precise man he wants to woo and that is head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick was pleasantly surprised on how well the rookie’s feet have been in the pocket delivering the ball and while under pressure. Belichick must like what he sees because in the Patriots’ most recent game against the Panthers last Thursday, Stidham came in to replace Brady — not veteran backup Brain Hoyer who has been rumored to be on the trade block now — while Stidham finished the game at quarterback.
It’s no secret Belichick has been slowly pushing Brady out the door for the last couple years now. Will Stidham end up replacing Brady? If so, when? Or are we going to get another Jimmy Garoppolo situation?
Time will tell.
Ryne Gallacher is a correspondent and columnist for The Outlook.