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Jarrett Stidham relishes opportunity as Raiders’ starting QB

Updated December 29, 2022 - 8:17 pm

For every week the past four months, Jarrett Stidham would quietly go about his business in the Raiders’ locker room.

The life of an NFL backup quarterback lends itself to such an existence, which made the small army of reporters that swarmed Stidham’s locker Thursday so conspicuous. In a span of 24 hours, the 26-year-old went from anonymous backup to the temporary new face of the Raiders.

The club’s decision to bench veteran starter Derek Carr on Wednesday thrust Stidham into the starting role. And that meant addressing the media three days before the Raiders (6-9) host the 49ers (11-4) at Allegiant Stadium.

The sight of this caught the attention of some amused teammates.

“Go to the podium, Jarrett,” wide receiver Mack Hollins shouted playfully.

The podium, of course, is an interview location normally set aside for the starting quarterback.

“Nah,” said Stidham, laughing.

All kidding aside, a big moment awaits Stidham, who came to Las Vegas from New England in the offseason when his former Patriots offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, was named Raiders coach.

That this moment came at the expense of Carr, the longtime face of the franchise, brought Stidham little joy.

“I can’t thank him enough for everything that he’s helped me with, personally and professionally,” Stidham said.

Stidham isn’t the first professional athlete to get his opportunity because of the benching of a teammate and friend, and so he can only focus on that rather than the manner in which it came.

“The NFL is a crazy business,” Stidham said.

Knowing all that, he will minimize the distractions and mind games of the moment and control what he can.

“If you try to overdo or overthink things, it can be detrimental,” Stidham said. “So I’ve just tried to prepare the way that I know how. I’ve just tried to keep things the same.”

The goal is simple.

“Obviously to win,” Stidham said. “That’s why we play football games, to win. That’s first and foremost. But my job is to facilitate the offense and run it how it’s supposed to be run, and that’s all I can do is just be prepared and do that.”

Stidham, a fourth-round pick out of Auburn by the Patriots in 2019, has played in 11 games and completed 32 of 61 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns. That includes three appearances this season, with his most extensive time coming in mop-up duty against the Saints in which he completed 7 of 13 passes for 73 yards.

Sunday will be his first start, and it’s against a team with one of the NFL’s best defenses.

“Obviously, you dream of playing in the NFL as a kid, and to start a game in the NFL is a dream come true,” Stidham said. “But at the same time, I’ve been preparing since my rookie year, and I’ve tried to prepare every single week whether I was the backup or the starter. Obviously, I’ve gotten to learn under a bunch of really good guys. Players, coaches. I’ve always tried to treat the weeks the same, and this is no different.”

His understanding of McDaniels’ offense from his time in New England should help. So, too, should his extensive work as the Raiders’ scout team quarterback working against the starting defense.

“He’s had some really great weeks of preparation against our defense, not that everything went perfect … but he’s seen as tough as it can be in terms of looks, speed, rush, coverage, variations, and he approaches those periods like those are his games,” McDaniels said. “That’s all you can do when you’re in his position, because you’re always one play away.”

When Stidham takes the field Sunday, he said he’ll remember the encouragement he got from Carr when the two spoke.

“The biggest thing — and this is what I always appreciated a lot about Derek — was to always stay even,” Stidham said of their conversation. “Never get too high, and never get too low. Football is an imperfect sport, and you try to do obviously the best you can, you prepare hard each and every week, but to always just stay even.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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