The Curious Case Of Jarrett Stidham
The Curious Case of Jarrett Stidham
You didn't have to watch the NFL draft to scratch your head like the majority of NFL fans, as the final pick, Mr Irrelevant, was announced on April 25th of this year. All the teams had made their picks, and scheduled their zoom meetings to announce their newest members. A few trades had come to pass, and franchises had gambled on the young men they believed would carry them to glory in future seasons. However, one position was not selected, by one team, and mumblings and grumblings that started low as a whisper, but grew loud as a jet engine, could be heard as far as Pebble beach, from the frigid tundra of the northeast.
When Tom Brady left the cold and bitter weather of Gillette Stadium, for the palm trees and sun bathed bodies of Tampa Bay, a divorce that many had long speculated was coming, but nobody was ready for, had finally arrived. And with it, the questions of how the New England Patriots would address the situation, flooded chat rooms, and filled newspaper columns and sports blogs from Massachusetts to the farthest reaches of the world. ESPN pundits and experts began to prognosticate the future of the most dominant sports franchise of the last 2 decades, and the demise of the greatest coach to wear a headset.
It was early enough that free agency was a possibility, and some interesting names were floating around. The favorite of the clam chowder loving, banner hanging crowd was Teddy Bridgewater. The talented, former first round pick had been plagued by injuries, but showed last year, in the stead of Drew Brees, just why he was so coveted coming out of Louisville. Alas, he ended up in Carolina. Number 1 pick, and 5,000 yard signalman Jameis Winston was available, and could be had at a bargain, since his suitors seemed few and far between. But, now he fills in the spot that Bridgewater recently vacated. The seat as Drew Brees’ backup still warm.
Trade speculation had the void being filled by the likes of Andy Dalton, or a very long shot at the disgruntled and franchised Dallas star, Dak Prescott. But they never got a phone call from Kraft or Belichick either. The last and final hope of Pat the Patriot, and the millions of fans, still clinging to hope that the dynasty continues, was the NFL Draft. Yet, at the end of 7 rounds, the patriots had made 10 selections, and none of them were known for throwing a football.
How could this be? Was the storied franchise throwing in a towel, just for a season? Fans started to nod in unison, and shirts were quickly screen printed “Suck for Lawrence”. Vegas put out the early wins over/under at 6.5, and nobody felt comfortable with the over. As in most of the greatest stories ever told, and unsung hero awaits in the lurches. Standing ready to pounce on the rest of the league who have forgotten him, and shine in the hearts and minds of fans still trying to figure out what jersey to order for their upcoming season. This story, is the curious case, of Jarrett Stidham.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and the talent of the starting quarterback from Stephenville High School, is no exception to that rule. Popular scouting websites Scout and 247Sports had Stidham ranked as a 5 star prospect in his graduating class, while ESPN and Rivals assigned him a 4-star rating. On the ESPN 300, he was 37th overall, ahead of the likes of Josh Rosen, Drew Lock, and Sam Darnold. He chose to stay in state, and signed a letter of intent with Baylor.
As a freshman, he saw limited time, but flashed brilliance and genius in the opportunities he was given. Completing nearly 70% of his passes, with 12 TD’s to just 2 picks, securing a passer rating of 199. Many around the program felt they had a QB that would get them into the college playoffs, and potentially win the program a National Championship
However a coaching change led the highly touted, and unquestionably gifted quarterback to leave Baylor. He looked to play against the toughest competition in the land, and looked at schools in need of QB help in the SEC. While known for its fierce defenders, and talent laden teams, the SEC does not cultivate star pocket passers. You need to be agile, and quick, and you need to run an RPO offense if you want to succeed. Not a great home for a rocket armed QB that likes to go through progressions. One Pac-10 coach told ESPN, “If Stidham had transferred to the Pac-10, he would have been a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft. He’s that good. Going to Auburn was a huge mistake.”
He still throws for 6,000 yards, 36 touchdowns to only 11 picks in his two years there. He is the only QB in the SEC to beat Alabama’s vaunted defense in 2017, going 21-27 passing (75%). But as coaches and scouts alike predicted, the RPO offense does not shine a light on his talent. Despite his exceptional mobility, he is not given a chance to showcase his arm, or his quick reads, that would have made him irresistible to scouts, had he played a pro style or spread offense. He has to shine at the senior bowl, and shine he does, winning player of the week honors for his positional drills and leadership. And at the senior bowl, a coach with 8 super bowl rings is watching, and loves leadership
Though predicted to be an early seconds round pick by Mel Kiper, his misuse at Auburn is to his detriment, but is the Patriots gain, as he falls to the fourth round, and Bill Belichick can not wait any longer. He has to take his guy. His heir apparent. From the minute he arrives at Gillette, his leadership can not be missed. It is felt by players and coaches alike, as they recall a similar swagger from a 6th round pick out of Michigan, not so long ago. As a rookie, he even takes a few of those first team reps from the current starter in practice.
The players on the Patriots top rated defense to this day shake their head at the shredding Stidham would do to them in practice every single day, as the signal caller for the practice squad. Devine McCourty, the future hall of fame safety opines, “The only reason our defense was so good last year, is because we had to play against him every day.”
He has a much bigger arm than his predecessor, and is far more mobile. He reminds a little of Aaron Rodgers, the way he commands the pocket, but can run out of it for 13 yards if you fall asleep. To people who have not followed his career, or even watched him play in pre-season, he may be the quintessential “Who?” player. But fans of other teams beware. This guy is salivating to take a bite out of your defense, and what a bite it will be. Nobody may see this guy coming, including Patriots fans, who are about to be blessed with an 11-5 season courtesy of this lefty. But just because you can’t see something, doesn't mean it's not there
Stidham is there, and he is the reason the Patriots did not sign a quarterback, trade for one, or draft one in April. He is the reason the Dynasty continues, and Bill proves to any doubters left, that he is the GOAT. If you root for another team, you may not be scared right now. But you should be.
Wayne G, Infinity Sports