In a surprising turn, Wednesday saw Russell Wilson benched, paving the way for Jarrett Stidham to step into the spotlight again. This situation isn't entirely foreign for Stidham, as he found himself in a similar position just a year ago when he replaced Derek Carr for the Las Vegas Raiders.
The circumstances mirror each other, with both teams navigating the delicate task of avoiding injuries that would trigger contract guarantees while transitioning away from high-priced veteran quarterbacks. In both instances, Jarrett Stidham emerged as the next man up.
In his initial start after taking over for Carr in 2022, Stidham displayed his mettle by taking on the formidable San Francisco 49ers defense. Despite the Raiders falling short with a 37-34 loss, Stidham impressed by throwing for 365 yards, tallying three touchdowns and two interceptions, culminating in an impressive 108.1 passer rating.
However, his second start was less promising, with Stidham recording 219 passing yards, one touchdown, and an interception in a 31-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Nonetheless, the experience of stepping into the starting role gave the 27-year-old quarterback a valuable sense of comfort and readiness, which he carries into the upcoming game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
"I don't think I need to overthink it," Stidham remarked confidently. "Just do what I'm coached to do. We have a great staff and a great group of guys around me. I'm just going to do my job to the best of my ability, execute the plays as required, advance the ball down the field, and, hopefully, contribute to scoring a substantial number of points to secure a victory."
Coach Payton's Dual Motivation
Broncos' head coach, Sean Payton, admitted that financial considerations played a part in the decision to bench Wilson.
However, he also expressed eagerness to witness Stidham's ability to "spark" an offense that has struggled throughout the season. "It's significant," Payton emphasized regarding Stidham's opportunity. "And I think, look, he understands it.
He came here to compete. These guys are naturally competitive and haven't gotten to this level without that confidence in themselves. He's going to want to play well. That's the trait most of these players at this level in our league have." During the offseason, Stidham inked a two-year contract with the Denver Broncos, including a $4.49 million base salary and a $7 million cap hit in 2024.
If Stidham delivers standout performances in the next two weeks, this could be an exceptionally cost-effective investment for a potential starting quarterback. Considering the cap implications of parting ways with Wilson in the offseason, Stidham's performance in these final two games plays a significant role in the decision-making process, providing insight into why Coach Payton eagerly anticipates seeing Stidham take the offense's reins.