For the first time, two former Auburn teammates will start games at quarterback in the same NFL season.
Jarrett Stidham will make his first NFL start on Sunday when the Las Vegas Raiders play the San Francisco 49ers. Stidham’s former Auburn teammate Malik Willis has started three games for the Tennessee Titans this season as an injury replacement for Ryan Tannehill.
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Stidham and Willis won’t be the first Auburn quarterbacks to start in the same season. Jason Campbell and Cam Newton started 15 games on the same weekends across the 2011, 2012 and 2013 NFL seasons.
Stidham and Willis played at Auburn in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Stidham completed 470-of-739 passes for 5,952 yards with 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and Willis completed 11-of-14 passes for 69 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions and ran for 309 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
Stidham came to Auburn after one season at Baylor, and he left as a fourth-round choice of the New England Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Willis also left the Tigers after the 2018 season. Willis completed 377-of-604 passes for 5,107 yards with 47 touchdowns and 18 interceptions and ran for 1,822 yards and 27 touchdowns on 338 carries in two seasons after transferring to Liberty. He joined the Titans in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
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Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels announced on Wednesday that Stidham would start in the final two games of the regular season in place of Derek Carr, who is in his ninth season as the Raiders’ starting QB.
Stidham has taken 116 snaps in 11 regular-season games during his pro career. But on Sunday, he will become the eighth Auburn alumnus to start in the NFL.
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Here’s a rundown on the first NFL starts by the other Auburn quarterbacks (presented chronologically):
Travis Tidwell, New York Giants: Oct. 22, 1950
The Giants used the seventh selection in the 1950 NFL Draft on Tidwell even though they had Charley Conerly on the roster, and the former Ole Miss star would be a Pro Bowler in 1950. But Tidwell still started three games as a rookie after warming up for the NFL by throwing two touchdown passes as the 1950 Senior Bowl MVP.
The former Woodlawn High School star had relieved Conerly in the fourth game of the season, making his NFL debut in a 17-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers by completing 4-of-5 passes for 41 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
The next week, Tidwell got the start against the Cleveland Browns at the Polo Grounds in New York. Conerly also played, but his contribution was three incomplete passes. Tidwell completed 2-of-9 passes for 17 yards with no touchdowns and one interception and ran once for 1 yard in his first NFL start.
Even with those passing stats, the Giants defeated the Browns 17-13 to raise their record to 4-1. New York ran for 211 yards on 56 attempts in the game, led by Joe Scott’s 121 yards on 16 carries. The Giants got a pair of rushing touchdowns in the second half after trailing 13-3 at halftime.
In Tidwell’s other 1950 starts, New York defeated the Washington Redskins 24-21 on Nov. 5 and Philadelphia Eagles 7-3 on Nov. 26. Overall, Tidwell played in nine games, completed 25-of-55 passes for 338 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions and ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He also threw three incomplete passes in an NFL semifinal playoff game, which the Giants lost to the Browns 8-3.
Tidwell played one more season in the NFL. He started the Giants’ season-opener in 1951, then made five more appearances as a backup for Conerly. In 14 games with four starts, Tidwell completed 33-of-76 passes for 493 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions and ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
Dick Wood, San Diego Chargers, Sept. 30, 1962
Wood made a tour of the AFL in five seasons and had the misfortune of crossing paths with some of the league’s best quarterbacks as teammates.
A 12th-round choice in the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts in 1959, Wood made his pro debut in 1962 with the Chargers, who had John Hadl in his rookie season, and Wood ended the campaign on the Denver Broncos. In 1963 and 1964, Wood started for the New York Titans/Jets, who replaced him with Joe Namath. In 1965, Wood backed up Tom Flores with the Oakland Raiders. In 1966, Wood started the first game in Miami Dolphins’ history, but the next season, the team had rookie Brian Griese.
In his first pro appearance, Wood came in for Hadl in a 42-17 loss to the Houston Oilers and completed 16-of-33 passes for 294 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and the former Lanett High School star was in the starting lineup the next week – San Diego’s third starting QB in four games.
The Chargers opened the season with Jack Kemp at quarterback, but he suffered a broken finger on his throwing hand in Game 2. He inexplicably ended up on waivers even though he’d been an AFL All-Star in 1961. The Buffalo Bills claimed Kemp for the $100 waiver fee and won the AFL championships in 1964 and 1965 with him under center.
In Wood’s first start, the Chargers defeated the Raiders 42-33 at Frank Youell Field in Oakland. But Wood didn’t get the opportunity that he had had off the bench. Wood completed 3-of-7 passes for 31 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions while Hadl came in to complete 7-of-14 passes for 161 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Wood’s TD pass was a 10-yarder to fullback Bobby Jackson for the first points of the game.
During his career, Wood played in 60 games with 33 starts, completed 522-of-1,194 passes for 7,153 yards with 51 touchdowns and 71 interceptions and ran for 45 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries.
Pat Sullivan, Atlanta Falcons, Sept. 29, 1974
The 1971 Heisman Trophy winner joined the Falcons in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft, but he didn’t make his first start until the third of his four seasons with Atlanta. Sullivan backed up Bob Berry as a rookie and Bob Lee in his second season.
In 1974, Lee, Sullivan and Kim McQuilken started games at quarterback as Atlanta posted a 3-11 record, failed to score more than 17 points in any game, got the No. 1 pick in the 1975 NFL Draft and used it on California QB Steve Bartkowski.
After Lee completed 14-of-45 passes for 127 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions in Atlanta’s first two games in 1974, Sullivan went into the starting lineup for Game 3 against the New Orleans Saints.
At Tulane Stadium, Sullivan went all the way under center in a 14-13 loss. Sullivan completed 7-of-20 passes for 74 yards with no touchdowns and one interception and ran three times for 19 yards. The Falcons got a 72-yard punt return by Gerald Tinker for a touchdown and two field goals by Nick Mike-Mayer, but New Orleans pulled out the victory on an 8-yard touchdown run by Jess Phillips in the closing minutes.
During his NFL career, Sullivan played in 30 games with four starts, completed 93-of-220 passes for 1,155 yards with five touchdowns and 16 interceptions and ran for 55 yards on 14 attempts.
Dieter Brock, Los Angeles Rams, Sept. 8, 1985
A former backup to Pat Sullivan who transferred to Jacksonville State, Brock played 11 seasons in the Canadian Football League before concluding his career with one NFL season. After earning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award twice, Brock got the Rams to the NFC championship game, where the Chicago Bears stopped their Super Bowl quest.
Brock opened his tenure in Los Angeles in a 20-16 victory over the Denver Broncos as the Rams won their first seven games of the season. Brock completed 16-of-29 passes for 174 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions and ran four times for 8 yards in his NFL debut. Brock’s touchdown came on a 2-yard toss to tight end David Hill in the second quarter as the Rams took a 10-3 lead. But Los Angeles needed to score the game’s final 10 points in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory.
In 15 games with the Rams in 1985, Brock completed 218-of-365 passes for 2,658 yards with 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and ran for 38 yards on 20 carries.
Brock suffered a knee injury in Los Angeles’ preseason opener in 1986, but it was an accompanying back condition that brought an end to his NFL career without ever playing in another game.
Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins, Nov. 19, 2006
After leading Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004, Campbell joined Washington in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. But he didn’t play at all in his rookie season, and his debut didn’t come until the 10th game of the 2006 season.
With Washington at 3-6, Campbell took over for Mark Brunell, started the final seven games of the season and remained the team’s regular quarterback for the next three seasons.
In Campbell’s first start, Washington lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-17 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Campbell completed 19-of-34 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and ran for 6 yards on six carries. Campbell’s first TD pass came on a 3-yard pass to tight end Chris Cooley as Washington took a 10-3 lead with 9:34 left in the third quarter. The second came on a 4-yard pass to tight end Todd Yoder with 32 seconds to play.
After leaving Washington, Campbell played for four franchises in the next five seasons.
During his career, Campbell played in 90 games with 79 starts, completed 1,519-of-2,518 passes for 16,771 yards with 87 touchdowns and 60 interceptions and ran for 1,204 yards and six touchdowns on 240 carries.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Sept. 11, 2011
After leading Auburn to an undefeated season and the BCS national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2010, Newton entered the NFL as the first pick in the 2011 draft and had a debut like no one had ever seen.
In the Panthers’ 28-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, to open the 2011 season, Newton completed 24-of-37 passes for 422 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and ran for 18 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.
Newton set a record for passing yards in an NFL debut, but the Cardinals won when Patrick Peterson returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Newton threw TD passes of 77 and 26 yards to wide receiver Steve Smith in the first half and scored his first NFL touchdown on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.
The 2022 season is the first one that hasn’t included Newton on the field since his debut. Along the way in the NFL, Newton won the MVP Award for the 2015 season and set the career record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.
In 148 games with 144 starts, Newton completed 2,682-of-4,474 passes with 32,382 yards with 194 touchdowns and 123 interceptions and ran for 5,628 yards and 75 touchdowns on 1,118 carries.
Malik Willis, Tennessee Titans, Oct. 30, 2022
Willis warmed up for his first NFL season with the Tennessee Titans by leading the AFC in rushing in the preseason with 159 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. He also completed 28-of-51 passes for 318 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in three games.
Willis made his NFL debut in the second game of the 2022 regular season, mopping up in the Titans’ 41-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He completed 1-of-4 passes for 6 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions and ran four times for 16 yards.
Willis didn’t play again until he stepped into the starting spot in the seventh game of the season with Ryan Tannehill sidelined by an ankle injury.
In his first start, Willis completed 6-of-10 passes for 55 yards with no touchdowns and one interception and ran five times for 12 yards as Tennessee downed the Houston Texans 17-10.
The Titans relied on their ground game in Willis’ debut. Derrick Henry ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries, and Dontrell Hilliard added 83 yards on eight rushing attempts.
Willis started the next game, too, when Tennessee lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 20-17 in overtime before Tannehill returned.
But the Titans’ No. 1 QB went down with an ankle injury that has sent him to injured reserve, putting Willis back in the starting lineup against Houston again. The second time around with the Texans, Willis completed 14-of-23 passes for 99 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions and ran seven times for 43 yards and one touchdown in a 19-14 loss on Dec. 24.
In the Titans’ Thursday night game, Joshua Dobbs went all the way at quarterback in Tennessee’s 27-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Titans will conclude their regular season on Jan. 8 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the winner of the game earning the AFC South’s playoff spot. Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said on Friday he and the coaching staff were weighing whether to start Willis or Dobbs in that game.
Willis has completed 31-of-61 passes for 276 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions and run for 123 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries in eight appearances in his rookie season.
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.