Cam Newton’s return to the Patriots on Friday sent a fascinating conversation I had with Jordan Palmer to the back burner.
Palmer, the quarterback consultant who works with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Sam Darnold and Jarrett Stidham, did a great job helping to answer the No. 1 question people around here have about Stidham.
Why? Why isn’t he further along? Why did he go from summer heir apparent to Tom Brady to getting supplanted by Newton? Why didn’t the Patriots go to Stidham when it was clear Newton was too ineffective throwing the ball to give the Patriots any shot when they fell behind?
Palmer didn’t have the answers to those specific questions. But the ones he provided gave a backstory that put the arc of Stidham’s two NFL seasons in an interesting light.
"What people don’t realize is Jarrett had as far to go mentally in terms of what he knew about football between college and pro as anybody I ever worked with,” said Palmer on Tom Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast. "People don’t know this. Art Briles’ offense (at Baylor, where Stidham started his college career)? Basically nothing in it would help you play in the NFL. The way you read defenses ... I’m not saying it wasn’t prolific ... but none of it translates.
"Gus Malzahn’s offense at Auburn (where Stidham spent one season before coming to New England) I think is even further from the NFL than Art Briles'. ... What they expect you to know at Auburn for offense is the furthest thing from NFL offenses. Then I think the Patriots offense is the most complex.
" ... The gap he had to make up was the most significant gap I’ve seen. Out of anybody I’ve trained for the NFL Draft -- and I’ve trained over 35 guys and 10 of them started as rookies, I do this every year -- I’ve never seen a gap like that."
I told Palmer the general consensus about Stidham in New England is that his ship sailed. The opportunity was in front of him last summer and he didn’t take it.
"You love to say, ‘Well, he had all offseason,' " said Palmer. "Well, you don’t learn it all in an offseason. You’re not walking through in the offseason. This guy watches as much tape as anybody. He studies as much as anybody. It’s not just all you see, Pats Nation, in the game. There are things that lead up to that.
"Kyler Murray (coming into the NFL) running the same system as a rookie in Arizona for Kliff Kingsbury?" said Palmer. "Right place, right time. He happened to be the No. 1 pick and the right team had the No. 1 pick. There was no transition for him. But if Kyler Murray were to get traded to New England right now, he’d have a massive gap. May not play. Because it would all be new. And that’s the thing that doesn’t show up."
So should the Patriots scale back their offense? Make it more accessible?
"No," said Palmer. "I think Bill Belichick is the best football mind I’ve ever been around. I’m not in the business of questioning what Bill Belichick is doing. And not because Jarrett’s there. I’m just not. I’ve had a chance to spend time with Bill. If there’s one person who’s completely changed the way things are done for the better, it’s Bill Belichick. They’re going to keep doing what they’re doing.
" … I think it’s the quarterback’s job (to learn it). You get a chance to play for the greatest coach in American sports history, Bill Belichick? Then what you do is you figure out a way to learn it and catch up or you get beat out. I don’t think they need to dumb it down for anybody. And I definitely don’t think they need to dumb it down for Jarrett."
Palmer, who was on his way to a training session with Stidham in Dana Point, California when we spoke, said Stidham is aware of the stakes.
"He knows this offseason is the offseason to grab it and take it," Palmer said. "Last year, it looked like things were heading in that direction and then Cam coming in ... the way things shook out, I’m not privy to that. But I would assume they’re going to bring someone in to compete and Jarrett’s going to get himself ready to compete and fill in the leadership void on this team and looking to step up.
"He knows how important this year is and what’s expected of him. He’s been in this system with Josh McDaniels for a few years now. He’s healthy, he’s in a good spot and it’s time. I think that’s how he looks at it and as his coach out here that’s how I look at it."