Anyone who has followed the Patriots during Bill Belichick’s tenure knows the ridiculously bad quarterbacks who have come and gone over the last 20-years.
Aside from Tom Brady’s selection back in 2000, the list of quarterbacks drafted by New England is certainly less than impressive. Names like Rohan Davey (4th round, 2002), Kliff Kingsbury (6th round, 2003), Kevin O’Connell (3rd round, 2008) and Zac Robinson (7th round, 2010) come to mind as guys who unless you looked at the Patriots’ draft history, you’ve likely forgotten about them.
Former Patriots QB Matt Cassel (7th round, 2005) would have likely been added to that list had Tom Brady not gone down mere moments into the 2008 season, which thrust Cassel into the starting line-up. Cassel played well that season as he led New England to an 11-5 record, but a trade to Kansas City after that season ended his tenure.
From there, coaching changes along with front office issues plagued his time with the Chiefs and he wasn’t ever really able to take the next step as a starter. Fortunately, since his retirement, he’s been one of the region’s best assets when it comes to providing some terrific insight into the team, with Cassel having joined NBC Sports Boston several years ago as an analyst.
But in terms of on the field, there haven’t been too many guys who have gone on to bigger and better things. The one exception to the rule might be Jimmy Garoppolo (2nd round, 2014), who has won quite a few games and even led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance but he’s dealt with injury-plagued seasons for much of his career. Both Jacoby Brissett (3rd round, 2016) and Ryan Mallett (3rd round 2011) each have had brief starting stints, but neither played well enough to seize the role and work themselves into the NFL’s elite.
Danny Etling (7th round, 2018) tried to do what Julian Edelman did and switch positions, which didn’t work out and Jarrett Stidham (4th round, 2019) is a forgotten man who after failing to win the job last season has an uncertain future. Depending on what direction the club decides to go this offseason, his days with the team are likely numbered.
As a result, as we’ve seen, finding a top-tier quarterback is obviously not easy. Anyone who has followed the NFL for any length of time has already seen how difficult it’s been for franchises that have enjoyed a dominant era to find someone capable enough of guiding them back there.
Dallas has continued to struggle to find an elite player since Troy Aikman retired, and they just saw their season end at the hands of Garoppolo. The 49ers have gone decades without an elite quarterback since Steve Young and Joe Montana walked away, and after giving them hope, Garoppolo has broken plenty of hearts in the Bay Area in recent years.
Miami still hasn’t found their guy since Dan Marino hung up his cleats back in the 90s, and even with Marino, Don Shula couldn’t win the big one. Denver, aside from Peyton Manning’s pitstop after injuries ended his career in Indianapolis, has failed to find a signal-caller since John Elway walked away.
PHOTO: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Meanwhile, here in New England, the Patriots endured just one season of misery before seeing Alabama’s Mac Jones fall into their laps with the 15th overall pick back in April.
Looking back at the 2021 season, Jones exceeded expectations. Most thought Cam Newton would start the season and potentially go the distance with Jones learning on the job. Instead, a real competition ensued during training camp and the coaches kept piling on Jones’ workload, with the rookie handling every bit of it. He soaked up the offense and caught on so quick that he gave the coaches the confidence that he could be the guy to start the season, to the point where they moved on from Newton and never looked back.
It ended up being the right move. Jones went out and led all rookies while completing 352-for-521 (67.6%) and throwing for 3801-yards, including 22 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions. He also won 10 games, leading the team back to the postseason for the first time in two years, with the club having finished 2020 with a record of 7-9. It was the first time they fell below .500 to finish a season since 2000.
On Saturday night out in Buffalo, Jones wasn’t affected by the moment or the environment and played fairly well. The rookie did finish with two interceptions, which included one that saw him get picked off in the end zone on a ball where Micah Hyde simply made an unbelievable play. His other interception was thrown behind Hunter Henry on a ball he probably shouldn’t have thrown, but his overall play wasn’t the reason they lost. Allowing the Bills to score on seven-straight drives was what killed them.
But in Jones, the Patriots finished the season having found their guy, which is obviously a rarity in this league. In Jones, they found someone with a tremendous drive along with an unbelievable football acumen, which is certainly hard to find. We saw very few rookie mistakes this season, which after seeing player after player taken before him back in April flounder, the Patriots clearly ended up with exactly the right player.
With a full offseason to get stronger and a complete season of experience now under his belt, Jones has himself in position to take the next step in 2022 and the fact New England is even in this position is unbelievable. As we know, plenty of other teams out there definitely haven’t been anywhere close to as lucky.
While the club’s season ended Saturday night in Buffalo, it’s safe to say the best of what lies ahead for them is just getting started. Given some of the roster moves that are likely coming this offseason, it’s good to know that the most important one won’t be a problem they’ll need to worry about any time soon.
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Offseason