Jarrett Stidham, the presumptive new starting quarterback of the New England Patriots, needs to back up his early signs of promise this year.
The 133rd overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft, Jarrett Stidham, is set to be the most talked about player on the New England Patriots roster this offseason — if he isn’t already.
That’s what happens when a franchise quarterback leaves his team in free agency or via trade or retirement. It happened last year with Andrew Luck and the Colts, and it’s happening this year with Philip Rivers and the Chargers, Cam Newton and the Panthers, and Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers, among others.
Of course, the main reason that Winston is out of a job is also the main reason that Stidham’s job suddenly changed: Tom Brady is now QB1 down in Tampa Bay.
So the question now hanging over the Patriots all season long is will Stidham be able to keep the ship afloat? No one’s expecting him to replace Brady, per se — that just doesn’t happen when you have a long-time franchise QB, let alone a living legend who set the bar as the greatest of all time at his position.
But can Stidham be a good quarterback — even a great quarterback — for a Pats team that is still very talented on paper and on the field? It’s a Pats team that is still captained by the greatest coach of all time, too, in Bill Belichick.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Stidham “put together the best preseason for a rookie quarterback in coach Bill Belichick’s 20-year Patriots tenure, and it wasn’t that close” in 2019. That may sound like hyperbole at first glance, but Reiss is a respected sportswriter and long-time beat reporter for this team, and he’s got the stats to back up his assertion.
There have been six rookie quarterbacks who have played in the preseason during the Brady/Belichick era of the past two decades: Stidham, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer, Jacoby Brissett, Danny Etling, and Ryan Mallett.
Out of all six, Stidham had by far the best completion percentage on his preseason passes, he threw for the most yards, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio (4:1) was second only to Jimmy G’s (5:1).
As a reminder, Garoppolo was just the starting quarterback of the Super Bowl runner-up last season.
Now, that’s not to suggest that just because Stidham’s 2019 preseason mirrored or even exceeded Garoppolo’s 2014 preseason that he’s for sure going to have similar career success as the current 49ers QB. But it’s at the very least an encouraging indicator that perhaps with a little more practice and fine-tuning, Stidham could show enough promise to warrant starting QB1 status for the Patriots.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes also had an interesting article published last week in which he cited numerous anonymous NFL scouts who sounded quite bullish on Stidham’s chances to capably quarterback the Patriots in the wake of Brady’s departure.
“He’s a lot closer to playoff quarterback than another guy who falls on his face replacing a legend,” one scout apparently told Hayes.
Stidham doesn’t need to completely replace a legend — no one ever will. All he needs to do is build on what was an encouraging first offseason and preseason and take that next step — the fabled “second year leap.” If he does just that, the Patriots might be fine in the long run after all … even without Brady at the helm.