Before we go any further, we should establish it's the job of a college football coach to win games while developing young men, and everything else comes after. Producing NFL players is important because it matters to recruits, so I'd never suggest that churning out draft picks isn't part of the job description at the Power 5 level, but no college coach has ever gotten fired explicitly because his players didn't reach and/or last in the NFL.
All that said, these quotes aren't good for Art Briles, Gus Malzahn or anyone who attended their schools of offensive thought.
In an interview with NBC Sports Boston's Tom Curran, high-level quarterback trainer Jordan Palmer said the following:
"What people don’t realize is Jarrett had as far to go mentally in terms of what he knew about football between college and pro as anybody I ever worked with,” said Palmer on Tom Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast. "People don’t know this. Art Briles’ offense (at Baylor, where Stidham started his college career)? Basically nothing in it would help you play in the NFL. The way you read defenses ... I’m not saying it wasn’t prolific ... but none of it translates.
"Gus Malzahn’s offense at Auburn (where Stidham spent one season before coming to New England) I think is even further from the NFL than Art Briles'. ... What they expect you to know at Auburn for offense is the furthest thing from NFL offenses. Then I think the Patriots offense is the most complex.
" ... The gap he had to make up was the most significant gap I’ve seen. Out of anybody I’ve trained for the NFL Draft -- and I’ve trained over 35 guys and 10 of them started as rookies, I do this every year -- I’ve never seen a gap like that."
The context here is Jordan Palmer, former UTEP quarterback and younger brother of Heisman winner and former No. 1 pick Carson Palmer, made his name at the NFL level by training other NFL QBs. Palmer counts Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence and Sam Darnold among his clients.
The client in particular Palmer is talking about above is Jarrett Stidham.
A Stephenville, Texas native, Stidham originally committed to Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech before flipping to Baylor and former Stephenville head coach Art Briles late in the process. Injuries thrust Stidham into the starting lineup in his true freshman season of 2015, and that following spring is when everything blew up in Waco.
Stidham transferred to Auburn where, after sitting out the 2016 season, he instantly entered the starting lineup in 2017. It's fair to say Stidham is the best pure passer of the Malzahn era at Auburn, throwing for 3,158 yards on 8.5 an attempt en route to the 2017 SEC West crown, then following that up with 2,794 yards on 7.6 a throw in 2018.
A fourth round selection of the New England Patriots in 2019, Stidham threw four passes as a rookie behind Tom Brady, which was to be expected. With Brady gone in 2020, he hoisted all of 44 passes behind an oft injured and struggling Cam Newton. While that's an admittedly small sample size, Stidham didn't exactly dazzle with it: 22 completions for 256 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Pats brought Newton back again for 2021, prompting questions about Stidham's preparedness.
The irony here is Stidham was reared in the same Malzahn offense that produced Newton, who, for all he is or is not in 2021, is still a player who won an NFL MVP and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015. So it's not accurate to say Malzahn produced zero NFL players. But the devil's advocate might say -- with a defensive end's size, a wide receiver's speed and a linebacker's strength -- God did as much or more to produce Cam Newton's NFL career than Malzahn.
And it's not accurate to say Briles produced zero NFL QBs, either. He turned Robert Griffin into the 2011 Heisman winner and the 2012 No. 2 pick. Griffin flamed out relatively quickly in Washington, for some reason that have nothing to do with Griffin (and therefore Briles, and therefore Stidham) and some that do.
After him, the next-best Briles NFL QB was... Bryce Petty, who lasted three season in the league?
It's a long, complicated story, with many factors beyond Stidham's preparedness and the relative faults of his college coaches. It's even more debatable how much Malzahn and the various Malzahn/Briles disciples (Kendal Briles, Philip Montgomery, Rhett Lashlee) should care.
But the quote's out there, and they'd be wise to prepare a response when it inevitably resurfaces on the recruiting trail.