So far as we near the end of the first week of workouts at Camp Covid 2020, there really have been no negative developments outside of the key veterans who took the opt out, which has happened to pretty much every team. At the risk of invoking some bad juju, there have been no major injuries like you might expect with such a huge monkeywrench thrown into the offseason program. We have yet to see the first veteran decide he's not into the whole football thing anymore and just retire, like we got with Rob Ninkovich. It's been pretty serene, overall.
But if there is one concern so far, it's the disturbing development coming out of the quarterback competition, which is Jarrett Stidham's nasty habit of suddenly throwing interceptions. After hitting all the right color uniforms on Monday, we've been treated to this:
- Tuesday: three interceptions on just five pass attempts
- Wednesday: one INT
- Thursday: two INTs
Breaking down like this:
And compare to the other QBs like this:
Now we can chalk this up to Stidham challenging himself and the defense with longer, lower percentage, higher risk/reward pass attempts, where as Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer are sticking more to checkdowns. And that's fair. Still, it's a concern. Throwing picks in one practice can be just a bad day. Do it every day and it becomes a trend. And trends can become habits. The Patriots are all about forgiving errors. It's error repeaters they get alarmed about. Trust gets lost. And it's hard to win back once you've lost it.
So today at his cyber press conference, Belichick was asked about it.
“I don’t think it’s really good for us as a coaching staff to over-evaluate an individual play when we have so many plays to work with. Every player makes mistakes out there. Every player gets corrected. Every player gets coaching points on things they can do better or differently.
“I would say ultimately, we’re going to reach a point where we have to really evaluate what the performance is. I think in the early stages, there’s definitely timing, confidence, anticipation issues that are different from player to player and depending on who they’re in there with, what the play was, how things unfolded and so forth. Sometimes those are mistakes. Sometimes they’re learning experiences. Sometimes they could be mistakes by multiple people involved in the specific part of the play that have to be ironed out.
"Our job is to evaluate the overall performance and progress of the players, and I think as we get a little further into camp, that’s easier to do when everybody has done their assignment multiple times in multiple looks and they’re confident and they know what they’re doing and all that. The first time through for any of us doing anything doesn’t go as smoothly as what it does when you’ve had multiple repetitions at that experience. That’s what our job is. That’s what we’ll evaluate. It’s certainly an ongoing one that I think is going to become more important in succeeding days. The first day or two, three, whatever, is not as critical as going forward when you’ve been through things multiple times.”
Plus, to be fair to Stidham, reportedly he's been playing through some things.
So there you go. Not that there's been full on panic in the streets. But anyone who's worried about the week Stidham's having or thinking that this means there is no competition for the QB1 job and it's Newton's for the taking, needs to slow his/her roll. We can over-evaluate a practice rep in August, because what else is there to do to keep us entertained? But coaches don't have that luxury. They have a duty to figure out what went wrong on a play, use whatever mistakes were made as a teachable moment, make corrections, see that the corrections are understood and eliminate the aforementioned repeated errors.
I for the life of me can never remember a single thing that went on at camp or even preseason games once the regular season begins. You forget it all in that way you forget all the bad parts of a pregnancy - the morning sickness and the puking and the sore bewbs - once you're holding the baby in your arms. So credit Pats Pulpit for pointing out that Jimmy Garoppolo had a similar bout of interceptionitis back in 2017, with five picks in the first two days alone. And that didn't stop people from freaking the hell out when they traded him for a second round pick a couple of months later.
So relax. As long as we're not seeing this mistakes over and over again the further we get into this abbreviated camp, then what happens in mid-August will be no more important than it was with Jimmy G or all those times Brady probably looked bad in practice but we put it out of our minds once the season started and the wins piled up. Belichick's not worried, you don't have to worry.