Jimmy Garoppolo was a second-round pick in 2014. He waited two full seasons before getting a chance to start for the Patriots in the 2016 opener.
He won that game on the road in Arizona and was playing lights out in the first 20 minutes of the next game against Miami before getting broken like a toy by Kiko Alonso.
The rest of the story is long, circuitous and ends with him being very rich and starting in a Super Bowl last February for another team entirely. Let’s not get into that here.
But let’s get into the arc of Garoppolo’s time with the Patriots because Jarrett Stidham – a fourth-round pick last year – suddenly finds himself in a spot similar to Garoppolo’s: competing with a former MVP and staring at the possibility of another year waiting his turn.
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis
Because we’ve spent the past two months since the draft believing the Patriots were riding with the Stidham-Brian Hoyer combo, the signing of Newton has been viewed by some as a vote of no-confidence in Stidham. In reality, this move has less to do with the Pats being cool on Stidham and more to do with putting a few chips on the very significant upside of Newton.
And that’s really not a bad thing. Not for Newton. Not for the Patriots. And not for Stidham.
New England Patriots
If Cam Newton comes in and performs like he did when he was last healthy at the start of the 2018 season, there’s no shame for Stidham in getting beaten out by a bigger, stronger, faster, more experienced player.
Losing out to a former No. 1 overall pick who, in 2015, had one of the most dominant seasons a quarterback’s ever had? It’s not really a fair fight.
And where does that leave Stidham? Same place Garoppolo was in his second season – watching a better and more seasoned player play.
Play it out a little more. If Newton comes in and performs as one of the top-10 quarterbacks in the league this season on his one-year deal, he’ll be back at the table as a free agent in 2021 expecting a deal that pays him at least the going rate. That would start at $25M per.
If the Patriots are committed to staying out of the high-priced quarterback business, they can push away from the table and then Stidham – with another year of learning – can be in the same spot Garoppolo was in 2016. Entering his third season and more than ready for his turn. He will then have two years left on his rookie deal to make his case.
Garoppolo, of course, was just temping for Brady in 2016. And Brady went on to win a Super Bowl in 2016 and have an MVP season in 2017, so there was no way for Garoppolo to dislodge him.
Stidham will be in an actual competition this summer (theoretically) and – unless Newton stuns everyone, stays healthy and plays like Brady in 2016 and 2017 – Stidham will have a chance to win the job.
Signing Newton buys the Patriots time with Stidham. And because there’s been no offseason for Stidham to truly make the second-year leap that most players do, the time is probably going to benefit him the same way it benefited Garoppolo.
What if Stidham beats out Newton for the job? Or Newton gets hurt? Or asks for his release which, if he’s playing for short money and feels he’s going to wind up backing up Stidham, he may well do.
Then the Patriots are back where they were before Sunday night – with a young quarterback who’s going to be learning on the job and a veteran quarterback ready as the safety net.
As much as we all got our brains around the idea of Stidham as the starter if and when this season begins, if he’s watching when the opener comes around, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It wasn’t for Jimmy G.