Is Jarrett Stidham ready to be Patriots starting quarterback? His former coach thinks so

Sporting News

A dozen quarterbacks were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, and none were chosen by the Patriots.

The first wave of free agency has come and gone with quarterbacks finding their new homes. The second wave seems dried up, too, with Andy Dalton now in Dallas and Jameis Winston in New Orleans.

So Bill Belichick either has something up his sleeve, or Jarrett Stidham will be the quarterback to lead the Patriots into the post-Tom Brady era.

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Stidham has four passing attempts in an NFL career that began as the 133rd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Two of those attempts were caught by Patriots. A third was caught by Jets safety Jamal Adams and returned for a touchdown. His resume doesn't stand out, but Belichick must like what he's seen.

Gus Malzahn, Stidham's coach at Auburn, offered some insight on why the Patriots seem to be comfortable handing over the starting job to the second-year pro.

"It definitely helped him to learn under the best and see what that looks like, but he's the kind of young man, too, this is what he's been waiting on," Malzahn told ESPN.com. "I'll tell you, the moment won't be too big for him. He'll be up to the challenge, that's what I expect."

Stidham played his final two seasons at Auburn after transferring from Baylor in wake of the program's sexual abuse scandal.

"Even when he got (to Auburn), before he played his first game, you could just kind of tell he was a mature young man," Malzahn told ESPN. "Like a gym rat, always at the complex trying to learn, study film. When he got drafted by the Patriots, I thought it was a perfect spot for him system-wise — spreading the field. He's so good with protections, changing protections, and scheme-wise everything that goes with it, and just the flexibility the scheme gives him. I think that really applies to his strength."

In 2017, Stidham led Auburn to the SEC Championship game, one win away from a birth in the College Football Playoff. He was considered a potential first-round pick before 2018, but fell down draft boards during the season after Auburn's top two receivers tore their ACLs in the spring.

Stidham was the second-ranked dual-threat quarterback after Kyler Murray in ESPN's 2015 recruiting rankings. Per the NFL Network's Peter Schrager, Stidham de-committed from Texas Tech in 2014 following Red Raiders' Patrick Mahomes performance in matchup vs. Baylor in which Mahomes, who was a true freshman, threw for 598 yards in the AT&T Stadium matchup.

Stidham's talent has flashed in the past. The most telling indicator of his ability might just be the moves the Patriots didn't make this offseason. Jordan Love fell in the draft to New England at pick 23, yet they traded down. The Patriots don't have much cap space, but certainly could have afforded the $1 million price tag for Winston.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported that one agent he spoke with tried to set up calls with New England to talk about his free agency or quarterback prospects in the draft. "Those calls, per the agent, came and went without a response from the Patriots," Miller wrote.

Stidham isn't a speedster, but he offers the mobility the Patriots haven't had at quarterback with Tom Brady. Stidham might not work out, but all signs point to him being the guy.

A Day 3 pick getting thrown into the action at quarterback? For the Patriots? In just his second year? Success seems like a long shot, but you never know.

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