You know the “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS” boxes? For use only when the feces is really hitting the fan?
Everyone lobbying Monday morning for an end to the Cam Newton Era thinks there’s a tiny box on a wall in Bill Belichick’s office – just like the one above – in which Jarrett Stidham resides. Smash glass, insert Stid, watch the future TODAY.
But that’s not where Jarrett Stidham is. He’s in another one labeled, “WHEN IT CAN’T GET ANY WORSE, BREAK GLASS.”
I get the, “Hey, play the kid, let’s see what he’s got!” mentality that’s gathering out there. Newton spit the seed in the 59th minute against the Bills, ensuring the Patriots a fourth straight loss and probably putting both the division and a playoff berth beyond all reasonable reach.
The reasonable among us are by now rolling our eyes at the well-meaning but redundant, “That’s on me, gotta get better…” video press conferences. Nine more games of the Uncle Rico-looking throwing motion? Yeah, no. Next!
Here’s the problem with that. Stidham has been given opportunities.
Here’s what he did with the one given to him at the end of a September blowout last year against the Jets.
All of last season, with Tom Brady edging toward the door and Bill Belichick crossing his fingers Brady would walk through it, that was an opportunity. This spring and summer? Unfortunately not what you’re looking for because of COVID, but opportunity.
Then camp starts and about 15 minutes into the thing (actually, three days of practices), he’s tapping out with a sore hip/groin. He didn’t get hit. He didn’t fall. He was sore.
He didn’t even really miss any time. He wasn’t limping around, unable to jog or even run. He could throw. He was just … limited. And there went the bus to the starting quarterback competition, rolling away with Stidham not even on it.
One thing Stidham did before coming up with the sore hip? Throw picks. A lot of picks.
There’s been spin since about how the injury really sideswiped any shot of Stidham competing. But we were out there watching. Stidham was not – to the naked eye – injured.
Then the season began and Stidham wasn’t even Newton’s backup. That job went instead to Brian Hoyer. Since you’ll never get a straight answer to a simple question, you try to make sense of the logic behind it. And you explain away Stidham's shortcomings by pointing to Hoyer’s savvy, experience, know-how, etc.
Then, when Hoyer gets his chance against Kansas City and torpedoes that logic and assassinates scoring chances, in comes Stidham.
On his first throw, he throws a pick that gets wiped out by penalty. On the next drive, first play, he throws a pick-six off the hands of Julian Edelman. He throws another pick from the Chiefs 37.
Last week, he came in for Newton. On a simple third-and-5 from the Niners 22, he got picked off when he threw wild behind Edelman.
In two games, he’s 11 for 23 for 124 yards with three interceptions and one wiped out by penalty. The kid just can’t stop throwing it to the wrong team.
In order for a backup to supplant a starter, the backup has to at some point signal he’s ready to ascend. That he may give the team a better look. Or at least give some indication that it won’t be worse.
Certainly Newton’s got turnover problems. But at least he can run with the football, a feature which at least mitigates his tendency to give it away. The only attribute Stidham has is throwing. And if he doesn’t know where it’s going, what’s the conversation?
Throughout 2000 and especially in the summer of 2001, Brady’s improvement was obvious. He practiced and – in preseason games – played more effectively and efficiently than Drew Bledsoe. Garoppolo had plenty of outstanding preseason moments that made his spot-starts for Brady less nerve-wracking.
Stidham hasn’t had those.
In May, I wrote about how COVID might mess with Stidham’s development.
Second-year players – quarterbacks especially – desperately need the offseason to make the big leap teams expect. Colt McCoy, who lost his second-year offseason to the 2011 lockout, said that was the “worst thing that happened” in terms of his development.
In the spring, you can’t hit so everything revolves around passing game reps. Last week, Mike Lombardi, a former Patriots executive and longtime Belichick confidante who now writes for The Ringer, said the Patriots “look underdeveloped” having missed their offseason.
“Their younger players like outside linebacker Chase Winovich, defensive tackle Byron Cowart, and wide receiver N’Keal Harry are not taking the normal giant step from being average last year to becoming good this year,” wrote Lombardi. “Without the development program in full force, the Patriots’ long-standing model of low-income scheme fitters does not work. This is not an excuse by any means, as all 32 teams were forced to miss out on their offseason planning this year. But it is an attempt to show just how instrumental the offseason was in allowing the Patriots to achieve their enormous success.”
In short, Stidham stinks. Will he always stink? I don’t know. He better stop stinking soon, though. Because – with in spite of all I just typed – his time may be coming.
On Sunday, Newton was not bad, especially relative to his performance the week before against the Niners or the week before that against Denver.
Honestly, that performance – aside from the scrambling – would have been statistically in line with a bad game from Brady – 15 for 25 for 174 yards, no touchdowns, no picks.
Even with a no-show game from the Patriots' run defense, a host of pre-snap penalties, a collection of receivers that Buffalo showed absolutely zero respect for all game, Newton had them driving with a chance to tie or win. On the road. Against a good and highly motivated team.
You don’t pull your starter after a game like that and hand the keys to a player who has shown great commitment to punting away every single chance he’s been given.
It has to get worse than this. A lot worse.
A loss to the Jets? Then we’ll talk.