Before Cam Newton dazzled in New England’s Week 1 game, people wondered who the Patriots’ next franchise QB would be. Bill Belichick had put in work with Jarrett Stidham already. Whether he’s the face of New England sooner or later, Stidham is one of the NFL’s future starting QBs.
Before he was drafted, Stidham initially committed to Texas Tech and then switched to Baylor for college football. But Stidham’s career at Baylor was short. Why did he leave so quickly, and what happened with the rest of his college career?
Jason Stidham’s football career
Stidham played high school football for Stephenville High School in Texas, where ESPN rated him a four-star prospect. Things looked great for Stidham’s college career with the Baylor Bears. But he found himself frustratingly spending time behind Seth Russell and competing for playing time.
The final straw was the sexual assault scandal that shattered Baylor’s coaching staff, leading to many of the coaches retiring or finding work elsewhere. Without the coaches he’d enrolled to work with, and without a clear path to playing time, Stidham went to community college for a year.
After enrolling for a year without playing football, Stidham transferred to Auburn where he started for the team during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. In 2018, Stidham committed to the NFL draft. After a bizarre college career, Stidham was finally an attractive option for many teams interested in a young NFL QB.
What the Patriots saw in Stidham
With Tom Brady already 41 years old, the Patriots looked at the 2019 draft class for a future QB. Brady’s path forward was uncertain, and Belichick wanted to ensure that his next signal-caller was as capable as possible. In the fourth round, the Patriots took Stidham.
During his rookie year, Stidham mostly watched and learned from Brady. He saw brief playing time in a game where the Pats were way ahead. (He immediately threw an interception for a defensive touchdown.)
Only a week into the 2020 NFL season, it’s tough to say Newton will be a perfect fit for the Patriots. But his first week was an excellent showing of what he’s capable of when a coach turns him loose. There will be tougher times for Newton in New England at some point. But he’s virtually guaranteed to start the remainder of the season.
What the NFL holds for Stidham’s future
But this isn’t all bad news for Stidham. Another player with a resurgent performance in Week 1 was Aaron Rodgers. He spent his first three NFL years backing Brett Favre. Rodgers became one of the best QBs over the next decade. So it’s clear his time as backup in Green Bay wasn’t wasted.
Perhaps this is the way forward for Stidham. Nobody plays like Newton does, but there’s still plenty he can learn. Or maybe Stidham goes elsewhere. Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t stun the world during his time in New England. But he improved enough to lead San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance.
Brady and Newton are two of the most dynamic QBs in the league today, but they couldn’t be more different. Stidham has the potential to learn a complete game — not to mention the tutelage of one of the greatest coaches ever. Coming off a college career full of obstacles and going straight to a backup role in the NFL isn’t ideal. However, Stidham is determined to make the most of it.