Wednesday’s announcement that Russell Wilson had been benched in favor of Jarrett Stidham sent shockwaves through Broncos Country. The five-year NFL vet joined the team in March as one of Sean Payton’s first signings. With playoffs still possible, the Broncos will now look to Stidham to help finish the season on a high note.

The Texas Dual-Threat

Jarrett Stidham was born in Corbin, KY, but eventually moved to Stephenville, TX. At Stephenville High School, he played football as both a quarterback and receiver, where he was a three-time-all-state honoree. His senior year stats were eye-popping, completing 183 of 260 passes for 2,934 yards with 35 touchdowns, rushing for 969 yards, and 15 touchdowns. 

His stellar high school career attracted attention, earning him the prestigious five-star recruit label and the top-rated dual-threat quarterback in his class by Sports247. Stidham initially committed to Texas Tech University. However, he changed course, opting for Baylor University after a standout season by then-freshman Patrick Mahomes.

As a true freshman, Stidham entered as the team’s backup quarterback behind Seth Russell. He became the team’s starter due to an injury to the incumbent quarterback in Week 7. Stidham showcased his talent despite an ankle injury curtailing his season. Despite only starting in three games, he finished with 1,265 yards, 12 touchdowns, and just two interceptions.

A sexual abuse scandal sent shockwaves at Baylor, causing a complete coaching overhaul. That, mixed with the likelihood that Stidham would revert to a backup, led to him announcing he was leaving the school. After a brief semester at McLennan Community College, Stidham found his new home at Auburn University for the 2017 season.

As the Tigers starting quarterback, he led the team to the SEC West Division Championship, though they lost to Georgia. In his two seasons at Auburn, he combined for 5,952 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and added seven rushing touchdowns. Following the 2018 season, Stidham announced that he would forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.

The NFL Journeyman

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Jarrett Stidham with the 133rd overall pick in the fourth round. He signed a four-year deal worth $3.15 million, including a signing bonus of about $634,000.

Stidham earned the backup quarterback role behind Tom Brady. He only attempted four passes in three game appearances. 

The departure of Brady in 2020 initially opened doors for Stidham. However, the arrival of Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer pushed him back down to No. 3 on the depth chart.

He threw his first NFL touchdown in Week 4 after replacing Hoyer mid-game, as Newton was out with Covid-19. His performance earned him a promotion as the backup.

The Patriots drafted rookie quarterback Mac Jones in the 2021 NFL Draft. Stidham started the 2021 season on the PUP list due to off-season back surgery. Week 10 saw his activation and return as the team’s third-string quarterback, though he never took a single snap.

Following the season, Stidham was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders. This reunited him with former New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. 

With two games remaining, the Raiders benched Derek Carr. Stidham was named the starter for the first time in his NFL career. In his first NFL start, Stidham showcased his dual-threat abilities by passing for 365 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, and rushing for 34 rushing yards in the 37–34 overtime loss to the 49ers. His second start was less impressive, with just 219 passing yards, one touchdown, one interception, and 50 rushing yards in another loss.

As the new head coach of the Denver Broncos, one of Sean Payton’s first signings was Stidham. He signed a two-year, $10 million contract to back up Russell Wilson. 

On Wednesday, history repeated itself as the Broncos announced that Wilson was being benched and that Stidham would start in the season’s final two games. 

Sean Payton stated the main reason behind the move was to “Get a spark offensively,” as the team was still “Desperately trying to win,” with aspirations of making the playoffs fully intact.

As Stidham prepares to take the field against the Los Angeles Chargers, all eyes will be on him. Denver now faces another quarterback transition as they are about to face the league’s third-worst pass defense. Stidham has a massive opportunity to prove his mettle and potentially sway the ongoing debate over the polarizing decision.