One of the craziest discussions this week centered on potentially trading rookie QB Mac Jones, which became a topic in sports media following a mention by Colin Cowherd on his show earlier in the week.
During Cowherd’s show, he suggested that Bill Belichick should leverage Jones’ strong first season into getting players he feels could make a difference in overtaking Buffalo and the rest of the AFC. One suggestion seems to be potentially thinking short-term and replacing Jones with Russell Wilson, which considering his age and the fact he’s not a viable long-term solution is questionable to say the least.
“Bill Belichick has always viewed players as ‘pieces’ and ‘parts’, he doesn’t get emotional,” said Cowherd via AM 570’s LA Sports. “He’s moved off great players, Pro Bowlers, and wanted to move off Brady. He moved off Garoppolo.”
“Josh Allen in the last two games has been so devastating, unstoppable, and jaw-dropping – could Belichick, with a GREAT defense, be thinking ‘I probably have to trade Mac Jones’? If this is a gunfight, he’s not sufficiently armed. That was the best cold-weather performance I’ve ever seen by a quarterback.”
“Mac wasn’t terrible but the league has changed. Mac has value, he is a ‘free’ player for three years at the most vital position. You can win with Tua and Mac Jones, and for some organizations that’s what they’re looking at. Belichick wants Super Bowls. Mahomes, Herbert, Burrow, Josh Allen… good luck being absolutely a tier below them. In the last two games against Belichick, Josh Allen has 8 touchdowns, no picks, over 600 yards, and no punts. Belichick is thinking ‘I’ve got to face THAT at least 10 times in the next 5 years??’”
“This isn’t the Brady Era where all of the quarterbacks and most of the coaches were stiffs. Does Belichick look at this and think ‘I have created value for Mac Jones’? There are nine teams that need a quarterback. Everyone talks about Russell Wilson but no one mentions New England. You can’t tell me you can’t get value for Mac Jones.”
Now, could New England get a decent return in trading Jones? Most definitely, although trading any asset requires an adequate replacement. That’s the biggest issue the team would face, as Jones has already shown rare glimpses in his first season of attributes that are harder to replace than people realize.
There have already been plenty of teams in the NFL who have lost a franchise quarterback and struggled for decades to find an adequate replacement. New England managed to endure one bad season before seemingly finding theirs.
And trading Jones? That’s just insanity, and below are some key reasons why doing that just makes the entire argument even crazier.
1) He’s Incredibly Intelligent and Has an Unbelievable Understanding of the Game
Jones got a fair amount of reps during OTAs and minicamps, which put him in good position where he knew what he needed to work on heading into training camp.
And when the opportunity arrived, he absolutely crushed it.
Jones went from being a player who some thought would get a season to watch and learn while potentially elevating into the starting role in year two, to instead using training camp as his opportunity to prove he was ready.
As each day passed, the coaching staff kept putting more on his plate and Jones never wavered. Each day, he put in the work and put enough on film where the coaches eventually started building confidence that maybe he could, in fact, be “the guy” and you could just tell he would play sooner than later.
By the time it was over, just as he had on the field in college, Jones delivered and won the job over Newton. In a competition where both players each had some ups and down, Jones’ consistency was hard to ignore as his trajectory stayed the same despite the increased pressure the coaches put him under, and he ended up being the one left standing.
He’s incredibly intelligent, which anyone who has followed Jones is probably aware of. He graduated with a 4.0-grade point average after obtaining his master’s degree in just three years.
But he’s also football smart, and you can see it in how he operates on the field. He sees everything and he’s being coached by two of the best coaches in the game, and those guys love smart, hard-working players. Better yet, they also likely love the fact he doesn’t make dumb mistakes, which was a trait his rookie counterparts weren’t quite as fortunate with this season.
He recognizes situations really well and he makes quick decisions, which is one of the reasons why he was so successful in his rookie season. As a result, while he may not have the physical attributes of other quarterbacks in the league, his head definitely remains his most important asset.
2) He’s Extremely Accurate
Even though Jones does a good job analyzing the defense and making decisions, one of his other traits has been his terrific accuracy.
Jones completed more than 70% of his throws in over half of his games during his rookie season, finishing the year ranked 8th in the NFL in that category at 67.6%. For anyone wondering the significance of that statistic, all but one of the quarterbacks in that group of eight got their team to the playoffs.
While his completion percentage dropped over the final few weeks of the season, it doesn’t change the fact that Jones had quite a few memorable throws over the course of the year where he showed some great touch on the football, completing quite a few where he thew it over defenders both in tight coverage, as well as throwing some perfect lofts on some long throws while hitting his receiver for big gains.
Many of those throws happened with pressure bearing down on him, with the rookie standing in until the last moment to make the play. He also does a tremendous job of leading the receiver in order for that player to make yards after the catch, which led to a lot of the extended drives they had this season.
While the final few games of the season weren’t ideal, it shouldn’t put a damper on who he is and what he accomplished. What it did show is what he’s capable of, which should make things interesting as we get to see his growth moving forward.
PHOTO: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
3) He’s a Terrific Teammate and His Guys Believe in Him
Another thing that stood out is the fact that Jones wasted no time endearing himself to absolutely everyone in the locker room.
Listening to various comments on every side of the football, it’s clear that he’s incredibly well-liked and respected. Part of that is likely because he’s a lot tougher than a lot of people appear to give him credit for, because his physique and the way he carries himself doesn’t exactly exude those traits.
But for the guys who see him and work with him each day, it’s a different story. They really seem to appreciate who he is and he’s quickly managed to establish him as a leader, largely because he leads by example and isn’t afraid to get in the mix when he needs to.
We saw that on a couple of occasions this season where his teammates started getting into it with various opponents, which led to Jones getting into the fray and pulling his guys back to ensure they didn’t get flagged or put themselves in a bad position.
At the same time, Jones showed some unbelievable toughness at times throughout the season, diving right in to push the pile when the team has needed a few extra yards, as well as getting back up after taking some incredibly brutal hits at various points throughout the season.
David Andrews has commented on Jones’ toughness quite a few times throughout the year, with Andrews also being among the first to come to Jones’ defense following any hits he deemed unnecessary on his QB.
But either way, it hasn’t taken #10 long to fill the leadership void in the locker room and thanks to his relationship from top to bottom, it clearly extends to everyone in it.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
4) He’s an unbelievable competitor
If you watched Jones closely throughout the season, it’s the details that really matter and having come from a program like Alabama where losses are rare, losing is clearly not something he’s O.K. with.
From the time the ball is kicked off until the final whistle, Jones was locked in all season and there was never a letdown or a moment where you felt like he wasn’t all-in. There were very few mental errors and one of his best traits was how quickly he put any issues behind him (the 75-yard touchdown to Kendrick Bourne following his pick-six certainly goes down as a memorable one, despite the loss).
In fact, in all the games New England fell behind, Jones never got frustrated and never let up. While the final outcome didn’t necessarily work out in their favor, it doesn’t change the fact the kid came back fighting in every one of them. Better yet, in some of the games where Jones took a beating, he jumped back up and kept coming and he showed quite a bit of fire.
One of the moments that stood about with Jones remains the moment he was drafted. After watching four other quarterbacks come off the board including the 49ers, who were rumored to be targeting him, Jones was all business after he got the call from Bill Belichick, with the smile disappearing and that same look of focus we’ve seen all season appearing on his face as he made his way up to the stage to start his football journey in Foxboro.
That’s who you want under center, and Jones showed throughout the season that he’s far more mentally tough than people seem to give him credit for.
5) He’s just getting started – While the road may have ended in Buffalo not even a week ago, what Jones accomplished as a rookie is pretty amazing, especially when you take into account the expectations of the players taken ahead of him.
The former standout from Alabama never had much of a break last offseason or a chance to recharge, which is likely going to do him some good. That and having the opportunity to bulk up a little more and get stronger will probably help him immensely as well.
What’s crazy is that at just the age of 23, he likely hasn’t played his best football yet. In fact, even he admitted that this week. Looking back at who Tom Brady was at that age in his first full season compared to where he is now, his growth was tremendous and a lot of that same drive appears to exist in Jones.
While no one will ever replace truly replace Brady, it doesn’t change the fact that Jones showed enough in his first season to make you believe that next season should potentially be even better. After all, consistency has been one of his best traits and through the 18 games we saw him play this season, there were more than enough moments to leave you wondering what the future might have in store for him if he takes the next step.
Some still will make the argument of looking at other options, but it’s safe to say that plenty of other teams around the NFL would be more than happy to have him starting under center. Again, finding guys who can make plays in big moments feels like something that isn’t talked about enough. That’s hard to find and when you do, you definitely don’t ship them off unless you’re 100% positive you’ve got a better option.
As for Jones, he’s someone who historically has only gotten better with experience and he showed in the match-up against Buffalo that big moments don’t phase him. Give him an improved defense and some additional help on offense, and it’s safe to say most fans will still like their chances.
Any given Sunday? With Jones out there, Belichick at least has the guy who can do enough to potentially get him back on top and every player around him seems to believe he can take them there.
If they can fix some of their personnel issues and build on what they accomplished this season, Patriots fans should be feeling pretty good about having Jones leading them after what was a pretty solid start to this new era in New England.
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