If Jarrett Stidham is next man up for Patriots after Tom Brady, what do they have at QB?

Dan Wetzel
·4 min read

When Auburn coach Gus Malzahn took a commitment from quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who was transferring from a crumbling Baylor program back in 2016, he knew some of what he was getting.

Strong arm, plenty of mobility and excellent mechanics, basically everything you’d expect out of a former four-star recruit from Stephenville High School in Texas.

What he couldn’t have known was everything else — the confidence, the leadership, the devotion to watching tape and the drive to improve and win games.

“Just the way he approaches everything,” Malzahn told Yahoo Sports on Saturday. “He’s obsessed. He’s obsessed with being the best. When it came to studying film, he was always up in the complex watching. You couldn’t chase him out of there. He was just trying to be the best. That’s the way he went about everything.”

Oct 27, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham (4) and quarterback Tom Brady (12) take the field before the game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Jarrett Stidham (4) was Tom Brady's backup during his rookie year. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

As of now, Stidham is the New England Patriots’ only quarterback. Tom Brady, after two dances in Foxborough, is gone to Tampa Bay.

While Bill Belichick may still sign a veteran (including another former Auburn great named Cam Newton) Stidham very well may end up being the guy taking on one of the hardest jobs in NFL history — the quarterback who replaced Tom Brady.

It’ll be a heck of a challenge. Every play will be compared not just to the winningest quarterback of all time, but the rosy memories of the winningest quarterback of all time.

Tom wouldn’t have thrown that pick. Tom would have fit the ball in that window. Tom would have led us on that comeback.

Brady won a record 219 regular-season games for New England. And a record 30 more in the playoffs. And a record 17 AFC East championships. And a record nine AFC championship games. And a record six Super Bowls.

It’s a record that sounds like a broken record.

Who the heck lives up to that?

This 23-year-old with four career passing attempts?

Well, yes, maybe.

“When he came to us in the SEC West, after sitting out a year, he stepped right in,” said Malzahn, who also coached Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP. “What stood out to me was his mental toughness. The moment was never too big for him. He has a quiet confidence about him. We won the SEC with him and had a lot to do with that. He played his best football in our biggest games.”

That includes 21-of-28 for 237 yards in a victory over Alabama, 16-of-23 for 214 yards and three touchdowns to beat Georgia and 20-of-27 for three more TDs to get past Texas A&M. This came in an offense that isn’t designed to rack up huge passing stats.

No, Stidham wasn’t perfect. He seemed to plateau his second season at Auburn and had he been an ideal prospect, Belichick wouldn’t have been able to get him in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. Brady, of course, went in the sixth round.

Belichick has kept him around for a reason. He has seen what Stidham can do.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers talks to his quarterback, Jarrett Stidham #8, prior to the game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn got two seasons of strong play from quarterback Jarrett Stidham. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“Jarrett is a smart kid,” Belichick said last year. “He picks things up very quickly. He has a good grasp of the offense given where he is in his career. He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him. In practice, he does a good job. He gets a lot of passes on our defense and when he has the opportunity to get the offensive snaps, he’s prepared and does a good job of those. But you know, it’s always different in the game.”

And it’s even more different if you become the starter, not Brady’s mop-up guy.

No one knows if Stidham will get that call. And no one knows what he’ll do with it. Belichick hasn’t panicked since Brady left and started signing QBs. In New England, there has always been confidence that it has something in its latest late-round draft pick.

No, not the next Tom Brady, because that’s ridiculous. But maybe a legit starter.

Malzahn doesn’t know either, but he isn’t ruling anything out for his former QB. He loves his approach. He loves his commitment to protecting the football (a Belichick priority). He loves the entire possibility of it.

“I know he really likes it there,” Malzahn said. “When he was drafted by New England, a lot of us thought it was the perfect spot for him to go and learn for a couple of years under the best. And then maybe take the reins.

“He’s got all the things it takes to be very successful,” the Auburn coach continued. “I think he’s been working hard for this moment. And I think he’ll take advantage of this moment.”

It’s a moment that might be coming … fast.

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