Yesterday's conference call welcoming Tom Brady to Tampa Bay was it for me. I gave his Patriots career a one week grieving period, as is customary. The mourners and well-wishers have all gone home. I've poured my last drink out for my homie in the ground. Taken off the emotional black arm band. I'm putting on some colorful clothes and getting back out there. The times we've shared together will always be a part of me, but they're are just a memory. As the Buddhists teach, you live in the moment. The past is only important in that those experiences brought you to where you now are. It's time to embrace the present and look to the future.
And this case, that future looks like the 6-2, 218 lb visage of young Jarrett Stidham. And I'm ready to embrace it. Sure, it's my job to cover this team. And maybe I need to be objective. But don't forget ... I'm also just a Patriots fan, standing in front of a new quarterback, asking to love him. And I will.
As we speak, there's a nationwide spike in unemployment claims by veteran quarterbacks, including a pair of No. 1 overall picks in Cam Newton and Jameis Winston, a first rounder with a Super Bowl MVP in Joe Flacco and second rounder in Andy Dalton can be had in a trade for next to nothing. There's been varying degrees of speculation that every one of them might draw interest from New England. But disregard all of that nonsense. Depending on how the beans get counted, the Patriots have between $2.8-$3.2 million in cap space, among the lowest in the league. There's no money to buy and refurbish fixer-uppers. There's no time in a pandemic-shortened offseason for Extreme Home Makeovers. Our future home is in the capable, 9 1/8 inch hands of Stidham.
The good news is, with the nation sheltering in their pajamas bingeing "Tiger King" in rooms piled high with paper products, Stidham is reportedly where he needs to be, already working on the 2020 season:
You might think I'm getting way ahead of myself here, that maybe I should give it some time. Be unattached for a while. Because I'm in a vulnerable state and shouldn't just get involved with the next passer that comes along, I'll concede you might be right. As long as you concede that there are reasons to feel really good about this one working out.
Right now you might know him just as the 133rd overall pick and just the seventh QB drafted. And ask me to name one other time that a guy had SIX quarterbacks taken ahead of him who ever amounted to anything. (I'll pause here for effect.) But the fact remains he was a standout true freshman at Baylor. He came off the bench in each of his first seven games, going 24 of 28 passes for 331 yards and six touchdowns. After the starter went down, he made his first start against Kansas State and went 23 of 33 for 419 yards, threw for three TDs and ran for another. Stidham was projected to be a top pick in the 2018 draft that produced Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen (all Top 10 picks) and Lamar Jackson at 32.
At least until a sexual assault scandal got most of the Baylor coaching staff fired and he wisely noped out of there to Auburn. But by the time he'd left and sat out a year, he'd already established he has a pro-ready arm capable of making all the throws. Deep balls:
And intermediate routes:
By all accounts from multiple scouting sources, the reason he fell to the fourth round of the 2019 draft was he regressed at Auburn, due mainly to lousy coaching at Auburn. But nevertheless was able to beat Alabama.
Source - The 2017 Alabama win showed a mobile quarterback with good mechanics and intelligence who played with confidence and was able to convert in key situations. The 2018 tape shows a player who lost both his confidence and poise and began to play a rushed brand of football that seeped into his pre-snap planning and his post-snap accuracy. Stidham went from ascending prospect to developmental quarterback and he needs to find the right set of coaches and system to help rehab his confidence and timing. …
"That was a really dysfunctional offense [his last year at Auburn]. The offensive line was bad, the receivers couldn't get open and the coaching was a big problem, I thought. He didn't play well, but he didn't get much help either." -- National scout for NFC team
Source - "It's the tale of two tapes," said one scout. "I think he could end up being worthy of a [first-round pick]. He wasn't playing with top bona fide receivers either [in 2017]. [The Tigers] say he is going to have more command of the offense this year. He has that side-arm release, but he's a good player. He's a pretty good athlete, and he has some speed now. There are things for him to work on, but I believe he's worthy of a first-round projection entering the season." …
Another NFC scout who was at spring games and who attended spring practices was even higher on Stidham's pro potential. … "He has a good mental clock; very mobile [with] excellent speed for a quarterback; [a] legitimate threat on the ground - he beat Alabama because he continually broke contain on crucial third downs. Plus, he's got an incredible story of perseverance that defines his mettle as a person. The kid is a legit winner. Those are all the types of positives that will make him grow quickly on general managers and directors as the season wears on if he continues his ascent. He's built mentally and skill-set wise for the pro landscape and has the makeup and goods to run a franchise. … Guys like him acclimate quickly and win locker rooms not just with approach but he has a good skill set to back it up as a player also."
As far as his Patriots career, such as it's been, of course you can focus on the pick-6 he threw in the Jets game. That's on him. Just don't overlook that in a lot more game action than that during Fauxball season, he put together the best August of any camp QB in recent memory. And there's plenty of tape to back that up.
Leading his receivers:
Accuracy (note the back shoulder throw at 0:50):
Creating space for himself and his receivers with his legs:
Knowing his place as a rookie:
Having a solid presence on the social medias:
So the question isn't whether I should be so excited about a Brave New World with Stidham leading this franchise. The question is, between all his potential, his performances in college, his scouting reports, the things he's had to overcome, his skill set, his attitude and his off-the-field game,how could anybody not be?
Studham. I can't wait.