- New England Patriots’ reserve quarterback Jarrett Stidham will miss three months due to rehab from back surgery.
- Stidham entered the season third on the depth chart behind Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones.
- At one point, Stidham was thought to be the ‘heir apparent’ to Tom Brady as the Patriots’ franchise quarterback.
There’s a well known quote attributed to the Roman philosopher Seneca: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” That may be true but sometimes success or failure in life boils down to external events outside of a person’s control. Case in point–New England Patriots’ reserve quarterback Jarrett Stidham who just can’t seem to catch a break since when he was first drafted by the team in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Stidham has one thing working in his favor–he’s held in high regard by head coach Bill Belichick and his opinion matters a lot. Even with that ‘rub’, however, Stidham’s career has been heading in the wrong direction. When Stidham was selected by the Pats in 2019 he was considered by many to be the ‘heir apparent’ to Tom Brady. Stidham didn’t get much game action as rookie playing behind Jacoby Brissett and Tom Brady but the prevailing wisdom among Pats’ cognoscenti was that it was just a matter of time.
Heading into the 2020 season, it began to look as if Stidham was going to get his opportunity. Tom Brady was in Tampa Bay, Jacoby Brissett was in Indianapolis and for most of the spring the expectation was that Stidham would at least be given every shot to earn the starting quarterback job. That was until the Carolina Panthers released Cam Newton in March. Newton bounced around in free agency for awhile before he was picked up by the Patriots on a one year deal on July 8, 2020. Newton won the starting job and while Stidham saw a bit more playing time than in 2019 it wasn’t much and he did little to distinguish himself. His stock dropped precipitously in training camp and has never really recovered.
The calendar turned from 2020 to 2021 and once again it looked as if the stars could finally align for Stidham. There was some question over the Patriots’ intention to bring back Newton so there was actually a scenario in which Stidham could have entered training camp as the top QB on the depth chart. That’s not the Patriot way, of course, and the skies started to darken for Stidham on March 12 when the team re-signed Newton to a one year deal. Stidham’s situation would further deteriorate in late April when the Patriots selected Alabama QB Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick. Adding insult to injury, the Patriots re-signed veteran Brian Hoyer just a couple of weeks later.
When training camp started things looked bleak for Stidham–almost worst case scenario. Unfortunately, it would get worse. Jones has impressed everyone and while the most likely scenario is for Newton to start the season as the team’s #1 quarterback there’s talk that the job could be ‘up for grabs’ between the two. Stidham has dropped so far that he quickly lost his grasp on the #3 QB spot. Reports that Hoyer has become a ‘mentor’ for Jones also bode poorly for Stidham’s future in New England. This endorsement of Jones from Hoyer effectively encapsulates the desperation in Stidham’s situation:
“You can see how much he puts into it. I get text messages from him at 6 a.m. He’s doing a great job.”
“It’s not easy playing quarterback in the NFL. It’s not easy to play it here. (Jones) works his butt off and he cares a lot. I am just there if he has a question, or if I see something that I can bring up with my past experiences and help him out. Because we’re starting in the toughest part of the field, against what I would call arguably the toughest red-area defense in the league. It’s not going to be easy. You’re not going to go out there and go 9-for-10.”
Were that not enough, yesterday it was Cam Newton giving love to Jones:
“Cool, like the other side of the pillow/ You never know when he’s really down on himself. You don’t really necessarily know when he’s up, either. He’s real cool.”
Now it could be the end of the road. The latest report is that Stidham underwent back surgery on Wednesday to repair a back injury and will miss up to three months. In addition to the injury and subsequent rehab the Pats have brought yet another QB into camp–Jake Dolegala who was waived by Green Bay earlier this week. Here’s what Belichick said:
“Well, we just thought it would be good to have another quarterback actively participating in camp. Jarrett Stidham will miss a little time, so we’ll have Jake in here.”
Ironically, the injury could be something of a temporary reprieve for Stidham. Since he’s on the ‘Physically Unable To Perform (PUP)’ list the team doesn’t have to make any tough decisions about his future until he comes off. Whatever happens after that for Stidham he’s definitely overdue for a ‘lucky break’. He’s been mentioned as a possible trade candidate for several teams in need of a backup but now that he’s going to have to rehab after surgery he’s a ‘tough sell’ for a team that needs help in the short term.