Since the conclusion of their 2019 season in January, the New England Patriots have not been transparent about who their starting quarterback will be in 2020. Tom Brady's impending departure was not made totally clear until he himself posted a farewell on social media at the onset of free agency.
New England then passed on the position in the draft and didn't pursue veterans Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton, opting instead to bring back Brian Hoyer for depth. Unless the Pats make a move for Cam Newton, and, again, there's been no indication that's coming, they appear committed to trotting out Jarrett Stidham.
All their actions this offseason have spoken louder than anything they've said about the second-year QB. His former college coach believes he's ready for that role after working under Brady last year.
"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," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told ESPN.com. "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."
After throwing all of four passes last season, Stidham couldn't be a bigger unknown in the NFL. He'd probably have a bit more fanfare had he left college a year sooner, following an All-SEC first-team selection in 2017. The former Baylor transfer played some of his best football in wins over Georgia and Alabama, who would meet in the national title game that year. His numbers dipped the following fall after two of his top receivers tore their ACLs before the 2018 season.
The silver lining in sliding to the fourth round was landing in New England, where he was positioned to learn from and succeed Brady. Malzahn called it an ideal situation for the 23-year-old Stidham.
"Even when he got here, before he played his first game, you could just kind of tell he was a mature young man," Malzahn said. "Like a gym rat, always at the complex trying to learn, study film. When he got drafted by the Patriots, 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."