Former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia thinks Jarrett Stidham could be the real deal, but expects there will be some “growing pains” as the team adapts to a world without Tom Brady.
“He’s a bright kid. … He showed in the preseason last year that he’s got some skills,” Scarnecchia told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday. “There’s going to be some growing pains, there’s no doubt about it, but the guy does have skills. He’s got [a] great mind, he cares, he shows up early, goes home late.”
Though his overlap with Stidham was brief, the retired coach’s endorsement should carry significant weight. Scarnecchia served as an NFL coach for 36 years (34 in New England) and was the league’s longest-tenured coach with a single team before retiring in January.
In addition to the loss of 72-year-old Scarnecchia — who had been integral to the team’s success — the Patriots also parted ways with 42-year-old Brady, who signed with the Buccaneers.
“This is a different guy in a couple of ways. Number one, he doesn’t have the wealth of experience that Tom has — there’s no doubt about that,” said Scarneccia, who won five Super Bowls with Brady. “Yes, there’s going to be some things where he’s going to hold the ball longer than you want it to be held. But that’s all about growing up in this league. … Those young guys, they take some time.”
Long-time head coach Bill Belichick has been left to pick up the pieces and rebuild the dynasty he, Brady and Scarnecchia built together with a significantly less talented quarterback room. Unless the Patriots make any late free-agency additions, the job appears to be Stidham’s to lose. Journeyman Brian Hoyer appears to be the team’s backup quarterback.
“He’s a guy when he doesn’t know, he’ll take off,” Scarnecchia said of the 2019 fourth-rounder Stidham. “He knows when to get out of there and where the escape points may be. And when he gets out of there, he knows when you better get down. He knows better than to try to run through guys as well because, you’re not running through many guys in this league.”
Stidham remains a largely untested wildcard heading into the uncertain 2020 NFL season. The Auburn product appeared in just three games last year, completing two of four pass attempts for 14 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
Scarnecchia says it will be incumbent on the veterans of the team to help the inexperienced quarterback get up to speed and feel “comfortable.”
“If [I were] still there, I look at those and say, ‘we have to do everything we can to make this guy as comfortable as we can,’” he said. “We gotta be as good as we can be every down and give this guy all the support we possibly can and let him get comfortable and build confidence and be the kind of player that we want him to be and that he wants to be, more importantly.’”
Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo are expected to take over Scarnecchia’s duties this season.