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Gordon: Jarrett Stidham has a lot riding on Chiefs game

Updated January 7, 2023 - 12:59 pm

Jarrett Stidham is quarterbacking the Raiders on Saturday against the rival Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium.

That much the 26-year-old knows.

What he doesn’t know is if he’ll be backing up Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo next fall, starting behind center or playing elsewhere.

Fine by him, or so it would seem.

“I’m just focused on this week,” Stidham said. “We have 3½, four days of the season left, and that’s really all I’m focused on. That’s all I can really do right now and just try to give my best effort and leave it all out there on the field Saturday.”

Stidham is an unrestricted free agent after the season, making Saturday’s game a lot more consequential for him than for the Raiders.

He passed for 365 yards and three touchdowns Sunday against the 49ers in his first career start, adding 34 rushing yards and two unlucky interceptions in a 37-34 loss versus the NFL’s best defense.

A duplicate effort Saturday means more money and opportunity in free agency.

“He showed what he’s capable of and what he can do. Definitely has some potential,” wide receiver Davante Adams said. “Sustaining that and doing it again will be something that would be big for him as far as seeing how they view him and how they want to move forward.”

Unfazed by uncertainty

Stidham played previously for the Patriots and at Auburn and Baylor as a five-star recruit out of high school. He’s hardly a neophyte journeyman, covering four stops in eight years.

Hardly ignorant to football’s transient nature.

His easygoing demeanor — and play against the 49ers — suggest he’s unfazed by the uncertainty he’s bound to experience as Raiders coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler retool the roster in their image amid the unfulfilled promise of 2022.

He can’t control their decisions.

What he can control is his play against Kansas City — and his subsequent decision afterward.

“Adversity hits in all sorts of different ways,” said Stidham, a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, “and I just try to keep a level head, keep balanced as a person and a player and try to work as hard as I possibly can each week to continue to get better. And that’s kind of just been my mindset through all of it.”

That said, he still tracks certain personal goals and milestones — some of which he mentioned Wednesday during his first midweek trip to the podium. Like his first start as a varsity quarterback at Texas powerhouse Stephenville High School, for which he played wide receiver while patiently waiting his turn.

His first start in college a couple of years later.

Sunday, too, would qualify.

“As a kid, you grow up wanting to be an NFL starter,” Stidham said.

Let it rip

And not just for a game or two, either.

Other teams that might seek a new starting quarterback next season include the Saints, Jets, Titans, Commanders, Panthers, Texans, Colts and Buccaneers.

If Stidham doesn’t re-sign with the Raiders to compete to start or back up one of the proven starters they covet, then perhaps he’ll garner interest from another club for whom he can compete for playing time.

This much he knows: He’ll start one more time for the Raiders on Saturday against the rival Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium.

All he’s focused on, anyway.

“These guys have been tremendous, we have a tremendous locker room, tremendous support staff, coaching staff,” Stidham said. “This has been probably the most fun I’ve had playing football in a long time.”

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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