How an Unusual Offseason Will Stunt Jarrett Stidham's Growth as a Leader
Justin Bethel's comments this past week say it all.
“I came in half way through the season and with COVID and everything going around, we’re not having our typical OTAs and all that and not being around each other for a few months all the time, I think you kind of miss that camaraderie that you usually get. It’s hard to really get to know people,” he said during an appearance on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football".
Bethel's struggle to build chemistry and relationships with his New England Patriots teammates are some of the many challenges that players and coaches across the NFL face this offseason.
While teams have been holding virtual offseason programs to work on their craft over video conferences, and some of those same players have been participating in private workouts with their teammates to work on the physical aspect of their game, doing all that doesn't help them progress like a typical offseason would.
In New England, one of the players that will be impacted the most by the virtual offseason is quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
As a player that has the opportunity to replace Tom Brady, this is one of the most important offseasons of Stidham's football career. He can hold all the throwing sessions this offseason that he wants, and watch all the film he can, but the fact of the matter is this -- Jarrett Stidham won't get to see a majority of his teammates until training camp.
Why does that matter? Well, after 20 years of having a Hall of Fame quarterback who was also a great leader, there will be similar expectations put on Stidham, who has had his ability to grow as a leader stunted because of this unusual offseason.
Yes, Stidham has gotten to see some of his teammates during the virtual offseason programs. The problem is, many of those programs he participates in are separated by position, so he hasn't gotten to be around all of his teammates like he normally would inside the walls of Gillette Stadium.
Yes, Stidham has held throwing sessions with some of New England's offensive players. But not all of them; the offensive lineman (as far as I am aware) were not included in those throwing sessions, and pass-catchers like Mohamed Sanu -- who has been staked out in Atlanta this offseason -- haven't been able to work with Stidham this offseason, and won't get their first chance to work with him until training camp. On top of that, those throwing sessions might not take place leading up to training camp now that the NFLPA has strongly suggested that players refrain from holding private workouts together.
Because of all this, some of Stidham's teammates, specifically the ones that were brought in this offseason via free agency and the draft, may not know Stidham very well. That impacts their relationship during the season. But more importantly, it impacts Stidham's ability to be a leader in the short term.
A year after being a fourth-round pick, you'll be hard-pressed to find a player or coach in New England that has a bad thing to say about Stidham. That could be the Patriot way, or it could be a genuine reaction to the way Stidham has gone about his work.
But what would some of the new faces to the team have to say about Jarrett Stidham? One has to think they would respond in a way that includes a shoulder shrug and the words "I don't know."
It matters during the week of preparation leading up to games. It matters late in games. It matters when the game is on the line and the team needs to rally around someone.
Unfortunately for Stidham, he won't get to grow as a leader until late July, which will impact his ability to be a leader during the 2020 season. That's unfortunate when considering Patriots Nation is hoping that Stidham will hit the ground running when the season begins.
Former New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said recently that there will be "growing pains" with Jarrett Stidham under center. But as we can see, those growing pains will be felt in more ways than one.