What a whirlwind it has been for Mac Jones the Patriot.
At one point in his young career, Mac was a promising young quarterback. As a rookie, he looked far more polished than the other QBs from his draft class. He led the team to a surprising 10-7 finish, which was good enough for a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. In that season he finished just shy of 4,000 passing yards and slung 22 touchdowns through 17 games. Fans in New England couldn’t get enough of the new kid. Despite some growing pains, there was hope that Jones and Belichick would keep the dynasty going.
For that short period of time, Mac was undisputedly the dude in Foxboro.
However, Just as quickly as he ascended, Mac fell out of the good graces of the Boston fandom. It’s a fate many other budding stars have met trying to make their mark in this market. One day you’re the next big thing, the next you’re being told you should be banished to Rhode Island.
It wasn’t all Mac’s fault. Mac had the unfortunate luck of having a defensive-minded coach take control of the offense. In what should have been a pivotal development year for Jones, he had to learn a brand-new system instead. The growing QB suffered dearly for this terrible lack of judgment from Head Coach Bill Belichick.
The Downfall of Mac
In a broken offensive system, combined with mediocre weapons, Jones barely missed the 3,000-yard mark throwing for 2,997 yards and just 14 touchdowns. The massive downtick in production was paired with 11 interceptions - thanks mostly to two games where Jones threw 3 interceptions. He was sacked 34 times to boot.
Fans also saw the emergence of backup Bailey Zappe during this confusing 2022 season, which only complicated things further. While Mac dealt with injury, it was Brian Hoyer who had stepped in first to replace the first-round QB. A sudden injury to Hoyer sent him back to the bench and allowed the then-rookie Zappe to take the reins. He impressed onlookers with a close contest against the Packers, and again by winning back-to-back games in Jones’ absence.
The potential nail in the coffin for Jones was the 2022 matchup against the Bears, where a get-right game was flipped on its head. The plan was for Jones to start and see how he felt, and then maybe swap back to Zappe if Jones wasn’t 100%. Sure enough, after one quick interception from Mac, Zappe was right back in.
I still remember those two throws from Zappe as he took over for Mac. First, a long throw to Jakobi Meyers for an acrobatic catch and score, followed up on the next drive by a deep go-ball right into the hands of Davante Parker. The crowd went insane. In two drives Zappe got the Patriots ahead after 3 drives of failure for Jones. Zappe brought the life back into Gillette Stadium at the moment. Everyone could feel the shift that had occurred. Mac would have to fight tooth and nail to keep this starting job.
The Pats would still lose that game to Chicago. Jones would go on to win three in a row. But that didn’t matter to a portion of the New England fans. The very loud minority of fans were still hoping for a Zappe resurgence late in the season, believing he was the best option for saving New England's playoff hopes. They never did get more Zappe, and the Patriots missed the playoffs.
The End of the Mac Jones Era
This all brings us to the 2023 season - a season in which everyone felt like it was a make-or-break year for #10. As the growing voice of the Zappe Support Group became louder, Mac had to find a way to block it out and focus on himself.
We can blame poor weapons, a banged-up offensive line, or even another new offensive coordinator making life harder on the QB, but one thing is for certain: Mac did not step up the way he needed to in 2023. He had moments that fooled us all into thinking it was just a bad patch and that all of the misfortunes of the Patriots were just dumb bad luck. We gave him time, but the Mac Jones we knew never came back to Foxboro after that 2022 campaign. The person who stood under center for Belichick in Germany against the Colts was not the same dude who had walked onto the stage in the 2021 draft. It did truly seem like he was a shell of himself.
It is an awful thing, to watch the confidence of a player slowly fade away in real time. Despite the few overall okay performances, Mac Jones began to deteriorate as a player. Jones took 22 sacks and handed over 12 interceptions in just 11 games this past season. He was missing easy throws, growing visibly frustrated, and lacked poise in the pocket which led to several of those double-digit picks.
He was inevitably benched for the last 6 games of the season, forced to watch Zappe take reps until the dreadful campaign came to a close. Mac would not take another snap for the Patriots after a 10-7 loss to Tommy DeVito and the New York Giants (where he was, again, benched for Zappe at half time). Now, he might not take another snap for New England ever again.
An absolutely brutal scenario to witness as a fan.
For this reason, Mac should not be a New England Patriot come this August
It has much less to do with actual production. Mac Jones can very much serve as a competent backup in this league for a very long time. Hell, there could be a team bold enough out there to give him a shot at the starting job in the off-season. If there’s anything we learned from 2023, it’s that teams desperately need to be ready if their starter goes down to an injury.
Ultimately, Mac needs to leave New England so that he can get his mind right. As it stands New England is, more likely than not, going to select a QB in this upcoming draft. Why put Mac through a “QB battle” we all know is already decided? This guy needs to find a new team for a fresh start and a clean slate. Having him stew away 3rd on the depth chart won’t be good for anyone involved.
If the rumors are to be believed, then Mac had lost the locker room long ago. The Patriots can’t keep him around and continue to be around a group of people who have lost faith in him to lead a team. A clean breakup would do wonders for both parties.
Last point - a departure from Mac is the major signal that this new Patriots team under Jerod Mayo is ready to find their new identity as a team. An NFL quarterback is often the face of the franchise. For the past few tumultuous years, that face had been Mac Jones. If Mayo wants people to know he’s ready to make the necessary changes, he will relieve Jones of his duties.
Mac Jones, I’m sorry it had to go down like this. Fans wanted you to succeed, but in the end, it’s time for you to find your own path outside of New England. It’s closing time on the Mac Jones era - you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
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