Stidham already spent two weeks with Palmer this offseason, and he’ll return for another four-week stretch before the Patriots open their offseason workout program in April. Palmer has already seen a tremendous amount of growth in Stidham’s first year in the league.
“He came and did a board session with a couple of my quarterbacks — Joe Burrow, Jordan Love, a handful of guys I was working with for the draft — and quizzed them a little bit,” Palmer told The Athletic . “Just hearing the maturity and his understanding of offense and defense in just literally a 12-month period, seeing that difference, I couldn’t help but smile and see that growth. And to know that’s just year one, it’s just the beginning for him.”
While in California, Stidham spends five days a week with Palmer for three or four hours per day. He’ll throw four days per week, lift each day, work on mobility and study film.
And Palmer’s training involves some high-tech elements. He partnered with Biometrek, which uses 4D motion analysis to study movement screening. So when Stidham throws in front of their cameras, they can analyze where he is using his energy and whether it’s efficient or deficient to his motion.
Palmer also exclusively works with Wilson on a prototyped chip in the football that measures spin rate, RPMs, velocity and spiral efficiency with an algorithm that displays a scoring range from 1 to 100. Because Stidham has long thrown an incredibly accurate ball with a tight spiral — attributes he undeniably displayed during training camp — Palmer worked to improve Stidham’s velocity prior to the 2019 draft.
“Because he can spin it as good as anybody in the league, literally from a data perspective,” Palmer said, citing his advanced video metrics, “the focus for Jarrett was velocity. So he gained 11 percent velocity over two months, and that was almost double what the other guys were. So just by focusing on certain areas, we can make large gains. So with Jarrett, every other week or so, we’re testing that and having him throw from the simulator out on the field, and we’re able to monitor growth and address certain issues.”
Stidham was viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick after his dazzling 2017 season with Auburn, which was highlighted by a masterful performance in a victory against Alabama. He ultimately fell to the fourth round of the draft due to a perceived drop in performance in 2018, although that season warrants context. Auburn lost SEC Player of the Year Kerryon Johnson to the draft, five of its top six offensive linemen to the draft or graduation and two starting receivers to torn ACLs in spring ball.
Nevertheless, Stidham was the seventh quarterback off the board, and the Patriots were up 10 times, including trade-downs, before they called his name. He wasn’t a sure thing regardless of his eye-popping accuracy.
Stidham is also anything but a finished product, and Palmer explained his primary focus, both last year and into this offseason.
“He had so far to go to get caught up mentally for the NFL basically because he played for Art Briles’ offense (at Baylor) and Gus Malzahn’s offense (at Auburn) — two offenses that have very little correlation to what happens in the NFL,” Palmer said. “It has nothing to do with (Stidham’s) intelligence level. Clearly, he’s intelligent. It was due to his exposure at the college level, and that’s not an indictment on those two offenses. Art Briles had a ton of success at Baylor, and Gus Malzahn is a national champion and has a great program. It’s just that there’s not a ton of carryover from those offenses to the NFL, so (Stidham) really had a long way to go to get caught up to where that offense is in New England. Brady has 20 years in that offense, right?
“For (Stidham), if he can really get mechanically sound, and really get the play-action footwork, and all the different newness of not just being in (shot)gun every snap like he was in college, if he can create muscle memory in those areas, it allows him to have more time and more, what I call, mental bars of energy to be able to commit to all the stuff New England asks him to do pre-snap — getting them in the right play, reading things really quickly. So it’s nothing crazy or anything that’s never been done before. It’s essentially building repetition on those things.”
So what’s the timetable on that type of learning curve?
“I don’t think it’s finite and specific enough to say this ought to take a couple months and you’ll be good,” Palmer said. “I think it’s an ongoing process that continues to evolve. In New England, it doesn’t appear they took Tom Brady and after five or six years said, ‘OK, he’s got the offense,’ and stopped evolving. I think they continue to evolve right now. I don’t think it’s about getting him to a certain point. I think it’s about continuing to push the limits of Jarrett in terms of his understanding, what he can acknowledge, what he can execute and what he can continue to repeat over and over again.”
Brady and the Patriots haven’t made any significant progress toward a contract resolution with less than two weeks until free agency, although it’s still too early to jump to conclusions over the 42-year-old’s future.
If Brady leaves, Stidham would be the leader in the clubhouse to take the reins, or he’d at least have the opportunity to compete for the starting job with a veteran or draft acquisition. Even if Brady returns, Stidham has a chance at a bright future and could be in place to replace a legend a year or two from now.
Palmer, who has worked as closely with Stidham as anyone over the past seven years, already believes he is ready to become a franchise quarterback.
“Jarrett grew up with a lot of adversity at a young age,” Palmer said. “He’s at a very mature point in his life. He’s married. He’s settled. His life is very organized. That’s a hard thing when guys’ lives are in disarray, and they are trying to be franchise quarterbacks and they’re young — it’s problematic. His life is very set and organized. That sounds lame to a fan, but it’s relevant from my perspective.
“He can throw it as good as anybody in the NFL. I think anyone who has seen him would agree with that. I’ve got five, six, seven of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, and he is right there at the top. He has played big ball, beat ‘Bama, played big games in college, had to learn two completely different systems in college and is now learning a third. He is playing for the best organization in football and the greatest coach of all time. I would put my money on the guy who gets to play with that guy.”
As an AU fan I can say that Stidham was magical in 2017. If he had come out for that draft he’d have been a 1st round pick without question. Stidham always threw a beautiful ball that makes a receiver’s job a lot easier. Adding velocity is always welcome. Muscle memory for footwork from under the center is repetition. I’m not worried about him putting in the reps. That he’s ‘getting’ defenses and translating that to the play call on the field makes me happy as all hell. 90% of a QB’s success is upstairs. After reading this article, free of hyperbole and wild boasts, maybe Stidham is much farther along than I thought (and I’ve already been told over and over again that he’s much farther along than JimmyG was at this point).
Here’s the big question. Is he ready to take over the reins? Short answer: not if you’re expecting him to go out and be Tom Brady. But with tempered expectations maybe he’s more ready to begin his journey than I knew. One thing I do know after watching him at Auburn - he won’t embarrass himself or the Patriots on the field and he’ll always represent himself and the organization with dignity and high character in anything he does.