Todd Collins will always be one of the best prep athletes in Massachusetts high school history. A three-sport star in football, basketball and baseball, Collins led the Walpole Rebels to a memorable 1989 Super Bowl title over Brockton, the state final four in basketball (where the Rebels fell to Bill Curley-led Duxbury), and Collins was 10-0 as a junior starting pitcher as well.
Collins went on to the University of Michigan, where he had, to that point, one of the best statistical careers of a Wolverine quarterback (5,858 passing yards, 37 TDs, 20 INTs, 64.3% completions, 145 passer rating). Collins' completion percentage is still the best in school history, and second-best in Big Ten annals.
Collins was a second-round pick (45th overall) of the Buffalo Bills in 1995, as Jim Kelly was getting toward the end of his career. Collins started one game as a rookie (a 28-17 loss to the Oilers as he completed just 6 of 15 passes for 30 yards and an interception. Collins went 2-1 as a starter his second season, and then Kelly ended his Hall of Fame career by announcing his retirement.
Collins beat out Alex Van Pelt and Billy Joe Hobert in training camp to become Kelly's successor at the age of 26.
Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in his second season, will turn 24 this summer as he battles Brian Hoyer for the right to succeed Tom Brady as Patriots starting quarterback.
If there's anyone who knows, even a little bit, about what Stidham will be going through, it's Collins. He took over a team that was used to going to multiple Super Bowls, and he had teammates, like Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith, who had won a lot of big games with Kelly. Collins lasted eight games as the starter, was replaced by Hobert, got the job back and then watched Van Pelt start the meaningless season finale.
But there were a lot of key differences between what Collins did and Stidham will encounter. Marv Levy was in his final season as head coach, and Dan Henning was in his first season as offensive coordinator. All three, including Collins, would be gone after the Bills missed the playoffs for the first time since 1988. Wade Phillips was promoted to head coach, and the Bills traded for Rob Johnson and signed Doug Flutie.
Collins went on to play nine more seasons in the NFL as a backup, mostly with the Chiefs, but he had a memorable 3-0 stint with the 2007 Redskins and Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, who called Collins the smartest player he ever coached.
BostonSportsJournal.com caught up this week with Collins, who is 48 and still living in Walpole where he's coaching three sports at the high school and helping to raise three boys, to see if he had any advice for Stidham.
You would seem to have a lot in common with Jarrett Stidham, when it comes to replacing Hall of Fame quarterbacks...
I was drafted in 1995 and then I played a couple games in ’96 and then took over in ’97. And then Marv Levy retired, Wade Phillips came in and that’s when I went to Kansas City and they got Rob Johnson in a trade.
What would your advice be to Jarrett Stidham right now?