While the Las Vegas Raiders haven't had much to celebrate this season, Jarrett Stidham is relishing his opportunity as the starting quarterback for the final two games.
Ahead of his first career NFL start, Stidham called this "a dream come true" while speaking to reporters.
"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," he added. "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."
Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels announced Wednesday that Stidham would be replacing Derek Carr for the final two games this season.
"None of us is happy with where we're at, but we think it's an opportunity to evaluate a younger player who hasn't had much time to play," McDaniels said of the quarterback change. "Talking to Derek, who was great, he understands the scenario that we're in and the situation, and very supportive of the two young guys."
After making the playoffs last year and acquiring Davante Adams in the offseason, expectations were high for the Raiders coming into 2022. They immediately dug themselves a hole with three consecutive losses and a 1-4 overall start before their bye in Week 6.
A three-game winning streak from Weeks 11-14 did get the Raiders within shouting distance of the playoff race, but they lost two of their next three games to enter Week 17 with a 6-9 record.
The Raiders are one of four teams in NFL history to lose at least four games in a season that they were leading by 13 or more points.
Per Josh Dubow of the Associated Press, Las Vegas is also the first team since at least 1930 to lose at least four games that it was leading by double-digits at halftime.
Even though Stidham is understandably excited to start games in the NFL, McDaniels isn't doing him any favors with the Raiders' final two opponents.
Stidham's first career start on Sunday will be against the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners defense ranks first in yards allowed (290.3 per game), points allowed (15.3), fourth in opponent passer rating (82.1) and are tied for seventh in sacks (41).
The Raiders will wrap up the season on Jan. 8 against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes leads the league in passing yards (4,720) and passing touchdowns (37). Vegas mathematically still has a chance of making the playoffs.
Stidham is in his fourth NFL season. He was a fourth-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2019 and appeared in eight games in the previous three seasons.
The Patriots traded the Auburn product to Las Vegas in May, reuniting him with McDaniels. The 26-year-old is 32-of-61 for 342 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in 11 career games.