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Las Vegas Raiders: Jarrett Stidham earned teammates respect, but can he become starting QB?

Las Vegas Raiders

This past Sunday, Jarrett Stidham turned heads and opened some eyes in his first career start. He didn’t flinch against the San Francisco 49ers’ defense, which gave up the fewest points and yards going into Week 17.

As the Las Vegas Raiders prepare to entertain trade offers for Derek Carr, they have a backup quarterback to keep around in 2023 and beyond.

Before we discuss Stidham’s potential career outlook, let’s put his most recent performance into perspective.

Stidham went 23-of-34 passing for 365 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions — one of two quarterbacks (the other is Patrick Mahomes) to throw for three scores against the 49ers’ defense this season.

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Beyond the numbers, Jarrett Stidham played like someone who’s comfortable within the system, which makes sense when you consider his three years with head coach Josh McDaniels in New England, though he never started for the Patriots.

Immediately, Stidham’s willingness to tuck and run for first downs stood out. He rushed for 34 yards, with his longest run going 11 yards. Furthermore, he consistently pushed the ball downfield to his playmakers, which is how he racked up a season-high in passing yards for Raiders’ quarterbacks.

Jarrett Stidham earned his teammates’ respect

Jarrett Stidham
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders’ top offensive playmakers took note of Stidham’s poise and playmaking ability:

Wideout Davante Adams painted a vivid description of Stidham’s demeanor:

Running back Josh Jacobs went as far to say that Stidham made a case for himself to take over the huddle.

Obviously, Jarrett Stidham needs more than one performance to put himself in the discussion to become a starter, but he definitely drew some intrigue last week.

Even though the Raiders squandered another double-digit lead (their fifth of the season) in a 37-34 overtime loss, the coaching staff has to like what it saw from Stidham, who didn’t shrink while on the field with arguably the league’s best defense.

Remember, McDaniels brought Stidham over from the Patriots about four months after the Raiders hired him. Clearly, he believes the 26-year-old QB has the potential to develop into an asset.

How Stidham stacks up with possible QB options

Jarrett Stidham
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Stidham has an expiring contract, so he’ll become a free agent if the Raiders allow him to hit the open market. Unless he looks completely incapable of running McDaniels’ offense on Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, the team will likely re-sign him on a modest deal. Stidham, in his third NFL season, made less than a million dollars this season.

Typically, offensive play-callers keep a quarterback who knows the system on the roster because that guy can step in and run the offense in emergency and injury situations. At the very least, Stidham goes into the 2023 campaign in a backup role.

Assuming the Raiders trade Carr, they’ll add at least one player to the quarterback room, which will determine Jarrett Stidham’s place on the depth chart if the team re-signs him.

In the event that Vegas signs Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo or goes the trade route to pry Mac Jones from the Patriots, Stidham would drop to No. 2 on the depth chart. All three of those names make sense for the Raiders because of their ties to McDaniels, who served as their offensive coordinator in New England.

Stidham would have to play second fiddle to Brady, but the latter turns 46 years old in August and barely led a talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers club to the postseason this year. Also, Brady would have to arrive in Vegas with a couple of offensive linemen and a few defenders to match the quality of his previous playoff rosters in New England and Tampa Bay.

Garoppolo has an extensive injury history, missing 18 games over the past three seasons. He’s currently on injured reserve with a broken foot. If the Raiders sign him, they should keep another serviceable backup, and that’s where Stidham could fit into the team’s plans with a room that also includes a rookie who may need to spend a year holding the clipboard.

Keep in mind that Jones played far better under McDaniels than he has under New England’s current coaching staff, which has a former defensive coordinator in Matt Patricia calling plays for the offense.

Former Patriot Jacoby Brissett will also become a free agent in 2023, but Stidham may have more upside. Brissett just turned 30 years old, and he’s served as a decent backup for a little more than half of his career.

If the Raiders don’t sign a veteran quarterback and just add a rookie, Jarrett Stidham would have a clear pathway to start Week 1 of the 2023 season unless the first-year passer shows he’s absolutely ready to open the campaign with first-stringers.

Don’t dismiss Stidham’s opportunity

Jarrett Stidham
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Jarrett Stidham isn’t some random former fourth-round scrub. He played for a couple of good Auburn teams on the collegiate level and helped lead the Tigers to an upset win over No. 1-ranked Alabama in the 2017 Iron Bowl. Kicker Daniel Carlson also played for that Auburn squad.

Let’s go back further into Stidham’s history. He ranked atop his class over some notable names (current NFL starters and Pro Bowlers):

Stidham could convince the Raiders that he deserves a shot to play meaningful snaps in the 2023 season if the team wants a veteran placeholder who can adequately operate the offense and teach it to a rookie quarterback.

On Saturday, Jarrett Stidham will make his second start, this time against the Chiefs, who have allowed the most passing touchdowns (32) for the 2022 term. If he replicates a lot of the good from his previous outing and takes care of the football, the Raiders may not have to look far for their stop-gap quarterback option.

Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.

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