Heading into the bye week, the coaching staff obviously has to take a hard look at the quarterback position as the Patriots try to move forward coming off of Sunday’s loss in Germany.
It’s clear that at 2-8, a change has to be made. Jones has gone from a player who had good moments and just came up short (Philadelphia and Miami), to a player in complete disarray (Dallas and New Orleans), to a guy who finally turned a corner and pulled off a comeback (Buffalo), only to end up back to where he started and then bottom out with the mind-blowing interception he threw in Germany.
Both Bill O’Brien and Bill Belichick were already teetering heading into that moment. Jones had taken a tongue-lashing from O’Brien at one point in that contest, with New England’s offensive coordinator having been one of the most important people in his corner. Belichick had also remained patient, believing Jones at least gave his team its best chance to win.
But that moment saw both fall out of his corner, with Belichick deciding he’d seen enough after the turnover.
That left Jones as just a spectator despite being down just four points with just under two minutes to play.
“I just thought it was time for a change,” said Belichick, who sent Bailey Zappe into the game to finish things off, albeit Zappe suffered his own miscue.
It’s been a roller coaster ride, and it sounds like even Jones’ teammates are finally ready to get off of it.
Safety Jabrill Peppers, who has been absolutely terrific on defense, told MassLive’s Chris Mason the loss was “a little frustrating,” adding “We held them to 10, but we had our chances to really put our foot on their throats and we definitely didn’t do it.”
The chances Peppers is likely talking about was the near interception to Hunter Henry on a 3rd-and-5 at the Colts’ 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter, where they were forced to settle for a field goal. That play was then followed by the ill-fated throw to Mike Gesicki from the Indianapolis 15 on the ensuing series for the turnover.
From high above the field, cameras caught Robert Kraft hanging his head as Jones was nearly picked off the first time, and the disappointment following the turnover has to have him frustrated.
If Kraft was wavering between Jones or Belichick, a topic we’ve heard discussed by him given Jones’ rookie year, he likely realized that the quarterback play just hasn’t been good enough. He also has to be frustrated, given that he’s watched his team consistently come up short despite opportunities being within their grasp.
Jones has preached improvement all year. We’ve heard it every week, with the former Alabama quarterback talking about being “close” with Jones being a few plays away from a different outcome. This latest game had two well within his grasp with a chance for him to deliver, and it just didn’t happen.
His final throw of the day was brutal. They had the perfect play-call, with Gesicki behind the defense just waiting on a ball that never came.
“It was a terrible throw,” said Jones when asked about the turnover. “Practiced it, hit it in practice. Just not a good throw. I mean, I knew where to go, just didn’t do it, didn’t do it right.”
For Jones, things appear to be too far gone to come back from. The Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan cited a source who told him the “vast majority” of players in the locker room are done with the third-year quarterback, noting that Jones’ mistakes are essentially negating “the best efforts of his teammates.”
It’s tough to argue that. Save for the meltdowns in Dallas and against the Saints, this is a team that has been in every game over this entire frustrating stretch. The game plans have been solid, and while it hasn’t been perfect, they’ve managed to overcome the loss of two of their best players on defense in both Christian Gonzalez and Matthew Judon.
Granted, the defense certainly has had its own issues. Allowing teams to convert 3rd-and-longs remains a problem (we saw it again on Sunday), but having an offense that can score points and put pressure on an opponent would certainly change that. Instead, that group has been trying to keep a finger on the dam long enough for Jones to get his team into the end zone, only to continually come up short.
They’ve been doing their part. Unfortunately, Jones hasn’t.
Say whatever you want about him, even going back to last season when fans started calling for a change thanks to Zappe’s midseason cameo. The Patriots did the right thing. They needed to exhaust all efforts with the former first-round quarterback to find out whether or not he could be the player they needed him to be.
It’s safe to say they’ve definitely done that. It’s just too bad the answer they got likely wasn’t what they hoped it would be.
(PHOTO:Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)
You can make the argument about the lack of weapons, the offensive line play, and the things that have held Jones back from potentially being a player with better numbers.
He’s had some good moments, showing enough potential at times that who he had been wasn’t necessarily who he was. Many people – myself included – argued about the reasons why he had shown flashes of potentially being the guy they needed him to be. People just needed to lower their expectations knowing that there was only one Tom Brady, and expecting him to be close to that was too big of an ask.
But his number one issue is the fact he just hasn’t been able to put together any consistency. He’s never gone out there and seized a moment or taken control for an extended period. He’s left anyone who had confidence in him waiting for a moment that never came and has instead created too many others that have become tough to forget.
What’s hard to overlook are the moments of questionable decision-making. The throw back across the field in Dallas remains one that’s going to be hard not to think about when it comes to how this season is remembered, along with his inability as of late to hit guys wide-open on routes.
There’s just been too much of that. We can talk about Brady’s struggles in his second and third seasons and preach patience, but Brady made progress and improved. Jones has become an error repeater, and it’s unfortunate.
With that in mind, Jones’ time should definitely come to a close for the remainder of 2023, and Belichick should find out if Zappe is more than just the quarterback equivalent of Jonas Gray, or if Will Grier could potentially be an answer for this football team.
But we know all we need to know about Jones, at least for the rest of this year.
With seven games to go, it’s now about finding out if the Patriots can at least put someone under center who can stop the mistakes and hopefully also do a little more to keep them from coming up short.
Who that will be remains to be seen. But whether it’s Zappe, Grier, or even potentially Malik Cunningham, players need to believe that when they step on the field in two weeks, things will at least be different.
It’s been a disappointing season, with a lot of questions still left to be answered. For a team that isn’t used to having questions under center, these final seven weeks need to hopefully yield a reasonable answer if the Patriots hope to salvage what’s left of this 2023 season.
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