MOBILE, Ala. – Jarrett Stidham said he’s been friends with Sam Darnold since high school. They went to the same football camps together growing up, trained together when they were both college players, and even spent some time working out in southern California just last week before Stidham arrived at the Senior Bowl.
Might they one day also be NFL neighbors, sharing a city and a stadium and fighting over back-page headlines?
“That would be great,” Stidham said with a smile. “I wouldn’t mind that at all.”
For that to happen, the Giants would have to draft the quarterback from Auburn. And they might. Stidham checks a lot of boxes for the team that is looking to replace – possibly immediately but certainly in the long term – Eli Manning. Coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman met with Stidham here earlier in the week. Scouting reports comp him to Derek Carr; he’s big, strong, smart and, perhaps most unlike the current Giants quarterback, doesn’t exactly mind telling you about it.
Which is why Stidham sounded on Wednesday as if he would much rather be selected by a team where he can start right away rather than have to wait for Manning or some other veteran quarterback to pass him the job.
“I’m a competitor so I want to go in and play right away,” he said. “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t. But on the flip side, if something like that is the case, if my role is to be the No. 2 guy, then that’s my role on the team and I’ve got to do it at the highest level possible. You have to be the best No. 2 guy in the world.”
Stidham knows that there is a big gulf between playing in college and succeeding in the NFL. Between reading coverages and anticipating blitzes and adjusting protections, he said, there is “just a lot more stuff.” But he also knows that some elements of the college game are seeping into the pros. And that there have been plenty of players – like his buddy Sam with the Jets – who have managed to make the quick adjustment.
“A lot of them are my friends,” he said of Darnold and even Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen, who joined the group in Dana Point, California, last week. “They’re doing really well. I like to see that young quarterbacks are doing really well. It does nothing but help going into this.”
There is also something to be said for the way the Chiefs handled their quarterback transition, drafting Patrick Mahomes and having him sit for a year behind Alex Smith before unleashing him on the league as the most likely MVP in 2018. That could be the path the Giants decide to take if they select a first- or second-day quarterback in this draft, sticking with Manning through the final year on his contract and then turning the franchise over to a second-year player after a season of tutelage in the NFL.
“It can work either way,” Stidham said. “You just have to go in and work your butt off from day one. If it works out that you are the starter then that’s your job, and if not then your job is to be the No. 2 guy and be the best at it.”
As for offering any tips on potentially coming to New York, Stidham said Darnold told him it’s a great place to play.
“He said it’s fun,” Stidham said. “He said it’s a little crazy up there. Apparently he’s like a celebrity up there. But he said he’s been loving it, loves playing in New York. He’s just trying to win some more ballgames.”