It’s a new dawn in Foxborough, and the big question for the Patriots is who will succeed six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, who is now quarterbacking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 years in New England. As the 2020 NFL Draft — which begins Thursday — gets closer, speculation has increased about whether the Patriots will attempt to trade up in the hope of landing one of the top-ranked quarterbacks — a group headlined by Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.
But Ben Watson, who retired last month after a 15-year career that began and ended in New England, said he thinks the Patriots have an in-house answer — Jarrett Stidham.
Though Stidham, the Patriots’ fourth-round draft choice in 2019, threw just four regular-season passes, Watson said he believes the Auburn product has what it takes to make it as an effective starting quarterback.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys who come in with a lot of hype who didn’t pan out. I’ve seen guys who came in under the radar and turned into superstars,” Watson told Fox Sports 1’s “First Things First” on Tuesday. “Stidham has all that there needs to be for somebody who’s going to be successful. He’s a student of the game. You hear that a lot, but what that really means is that when we’re in the meeting rooms, he’s paying attention.”
Stidham, just 23, was Brady’s backup last season, with 33-year-old Brian Hoyer, who joined last year for his third stint and has played with seven other NFL teams, as the third-string quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Stidham starred for two seasons at Auburn, leading the Tigers to the SEC West Division championship in 2017, with victories over Georgia and Alabama.
After arriving in the NFL, Stidham had the year to sit and learn from Brady, who back in 2001, had waited for his turn to start until taking over for injured starter Drew Bledsoe during a Week 2 regular season game against the Jets.
The rest is history. Brady won six Super Bowl titles, so there will be plenty of pressure on Stidham if he gets the starting nod.
Watson, who earned a Super Bowl ring his rookie year of 2004 after the Patriots beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, said Stidham’s has learned a lot from playing behind a future Hall of Famer in Brady as part of the winning Patriots organization.
“He’s eager to learn, and he has a certain humility about him, with confidence,” Watson said. “He had a chance to learn under arguably the greatest quarterback to play the game.
“He soaked that in for a year. Patriots fans should be confident that he wouldn’t be in that room if coach [Bill] Belichick didn’t think he could help the team.”
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