Quarterback Jarrett Stidham was tossed directly into the lion’s den of New England sports in March when Tom Brady left the Patriots and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Formerly the backup QB behind Brady, he suddenly became the team’s starter, tasked with filling the shoes of a Patriots legend (and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time). That’s a tall order, and Stidham could easily let the pressure get to him.
One of Stidham’s college coaches doesn’t think that will happen, though. Gus Malzahn, who coached Stidham at Auburn in 2017 and 2018 before Stidham declared for the 2019 draft, told ESPN that he’s confident the young QB is set up to succeed and ready for whatever he’ll face.
“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. 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,” Malzahn told ESPN.com.
“Even when he got here, before he played his first game, you could just kind of tell he was a mature young man. Like a gym rat, always at the complex trying to learn, study film. When he got drafted by the Patriots [in 2019], 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.”
It goes beyond how he prepares, though. Malzahn also believes that Stidham’s personality and ability to connect with people will help him navigate his new situation and help him find success.
“He’s a people person, too. He has the ability, right off the bat, to develop relationships. People rally around him,” Malzahn told ESPN. “When he first got here, he had spent one-on-one with the coaches, one-on-one time with the players. He just has that ability that people want to follow him.”
Stidham has already made a worthwhile connection with team captain Devin McCourty, who said on his podcast in March that Stidham impressed him last season and even helped the first string play better.
“To me, the best thing for Stiddy was that he had to go against our defense every week. He didn’t have it easy,” McCourty said Sunday night on his "Double Coverage" podcast with twin brother and teammate, Jason McCourty. “I love his poise. I would be faking a blitz sometimes and we’d make eye contact and he’d just start smiling and laughing.
“To me, there were weeks where he was just on-point. And those were some of our best weeks as a defense, mainly because Stiddy ate us up in practice leading up to the game, and I think put more pressure on us. So I really admire just how hard he works, and then I’ve got to know him off the field as well. He’s a really good guy. Young guy, but very mature. He’s married. I think the Stidhams are going to be in New England for a long time.”
Stidham has his work cut out for him in New England this season. It looks like he’s already got a strong foundation for success, but will that translate into actual wins? We’ll have to wait and see.
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