Prior to Friday’s news of an upper leg injury, Jarrett Stidham’s week had been a mixed bag. Lots of sharp, decisive throws delivered on target and with authority. And a handful of throws that went to the wrong team.
Hopefully, Stidham’s injury won’t sideline him for any stretch of time – offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Friday he expects Stidham to be “ready to roll the next time we practice.”
Now, back to the miscues. Asked Friday morning about Stidham’s week, Belichick answered in general terms but his message was clear: Don’t get too hung up on crap plays in the first week.
“I don’t think overevaluating one individual play for any player at any position is usually a good evaluation tool,” Belichick said in response to Phil Perry’s question about how excusable some of Stidham’s apparent miscues have been. “All players have good plays out there, all players have bad plays, as do the coaches. I think you look at the body of work. We’re running hundreds of plays and it’s the composite of all of it.
“Of course, good plays are good and plays that aren’t so good, aren’t so good,” Belichick continued (aside: I love when he says stuff like that). “We all have those. I think it really comes down to the consistency and the overall performance of players and I would say the progression and the track that they’re on: improving, staying about the same or possibly declining.”
Stidham had a few “aren’t so goods” on Thursday. How much did the reported leg soreness he’s experiencing have to do with those? Hard to say.
But Stidham had limited throws and on those he went 2-for-6 with two picks. On one of the picks, Myles Bryant assaulted intended receiver Jakobi Meyers; on the other Justin Bethel may or may not have secured the ball before he hit the ground. Even if those weren’t interceptions, on Tuesday Stidham had three that wound up in the hands of the defense.
Jedd Fisch, the Patriots quarterbacks coach, wasn’t sweating it either. While every team wants to be as perfect and precise as possible at all times, there’s a trial-and-error element that means imperfect and imprecise are going to be invited to the party as well.
“We may have asked a quarterback, ‘Hey, let’s challenge this guy on this play. Let’s see what it looks like on this throw,’ “ said Fisch. “You have to sometimes treat the practice field like a driving range and you have to see, ‘What club do I have to use here, or what does it feel like, or is this a ball that I have to put extra trajectory on, or should I throw a flatter ball?’ “
The key, said Fisch, is actually doing something with the information gleaned from the experimenting.
“If you learn from those mistakes or if you … really you just gain knowledge as you go and I think the repeat offenders on the same play, those are the ones are concerning,” added Fisch. “But, when a ball gets missed or a ball is on the ground or if a defensive player makes a great play, it is really hard to live in that world of ups and downs and be too concerned over the course of a practice of one or two plays.”
Bottom line, interceptions aren’t good. And Stidham’s thrown a few of them. How much will the coaching staff hold that against him as he competes with Cam Newton for the starter’s job?
Not a lot. Not yet. That’s how Belichick made it sound. Because guys are still screwing things up.
“Every player makes mistakes, every player gets corrected, every player gets coaching points on things they can do better or differently,” he said in response to a question from Mike Giardi about Stidham bouncing back. “Ultimately we’ll reach a point where we have to really evaluate what the performance is.
“In the early stages there’s definitely timing, confidence, anticipation issues that are different from player to player depending on who they’re in there with and how the play unfolded,” Belichick pointed out. “Sometimes those are mistakes, sometimes they’re learning experiences, sometimes there are mistakes by multiple people that have to be ironed out.
"Our job is to evaluate the overall performance and progress of the players and as we get further into camp that will be easier to do when everybody has done their assignment multiple times against multiple looks and they’re confident and know what they’re doing and all that.
“The first time for any of us doing anything doesn’t go as smoothly as it does when you’ve had multiple repetitions at that experience,” he added. “That’s what our job is. That’s what we’ll evaluate. It’s an ongoing one that’s going to be more important in succeeding days. The first day or two, three, is not as critical as going forward when you’ve been through things multiple times.”