New England Patriots

Nov 20, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) and quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) walk onto the field before a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots spent the last year making things as hard as possible on second year quarterback Mac Jones. It’s time to take a different approach.

Much of the discourse coming from the crowd looking for the team to move on from Jones as soon as possible is that he can’t “cover up flaws” like elite quarterbacks can. While that may be true, the kinds of quarterbacks who can cover up those sorts of flaws are few and far between, and nearly impossible to acquire. If such a player was out there, sure it may make sense to be aggressive and bring them in, but that’s not an option right now.

This is a weak quarterback draft class, with the only two players who may fit that description. Both are expected to go in the top five, if not back-to-back picks one and two. Elsewhere, yes Lamar Jackson’s contract is about to expire, but him coming to New England isn’t realistic for a myriad of reasons including the price it will likely take to trade for him (other teams have more assets to offer than the Patriots) and the high probability the Ravens won’t want to trade him within the AFC, especially not to a ‘rival.’

Even if the Patriots were to bring in one of those players, the assets they would have to expend in doing so would eliminate their ability to fix the roster around the quarterback spot, leaving the flaws in place. Specifically when it comes to trading up in the draft, any rookie they take would be stepping into the same bad situation that failed Jones in 2022. That’s tremendous pressure for a first-year player, the kind that usually doesn’t end well.

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So what about instead of going on a wild goose chase for the quarterback that can cover up all the flaws, the Patriots instead expend those assets to fix the flaws themselves (we’ll get into how starting tomorrow). That’s a much more doable task, and one that will yield the Patriots a much clearer result. On a rebuilt roster, one of two things will happen – either Jones will get back on track from where he left off in 2021, and the team is off and running. Or, he still struggles, and then the team can look to add a QB of the future in a much better 2024 class, and bring that new quarterback into a well-built situation.

The idea that the quarterback’s biggest issue is he struggles the most when all is falling apart around him is a bit of a logical fallacy. The goal shouldn’t be for Jones to look his best when things are at their worst – but rather build the team up so things don’t look that bad to begin with. That’s not to say he bears no responsibility and doesn’t need to be able to handle pressure, but what he dealt with in 2022 was unprecedented and shouldn’t have to be a long-term battle for him.

Don’t think a coaching change can’t help turn things around either. This weekend of playoff games was a great example as Trevor Lawrence and Daniel Jones both put won their teams playoff games a year after looking like they were ready to be written off under their previous coaches (Urban Meyer for Lawrence, and current Patriots’ quarterbacks coach Joe Judge for Jones).

Mac Jones already had to deal with first-time offensive coaches in Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, multiple scheme changes, a rebuilt offensive line, the benching of one of his favorite receivers, and fans chanting for his backup throughout the season. That’s a lot for any player, never mind a second year quarterback who has known nothing but success since high school. Adding a veteran breathing down his neck (a Derek Carr type of player, who is a comparable quarterback but older with significantly less ceiling and making more money) or a high draft pick waiting in the wings is just piling on.

The Patriots have their starter, their backup (Bailey Zappe) and a valuable veteran voice (Brian Hoyer) in place. The only move they should consider at the position this offseason is bringing in a comparable player to Hoyer (as a guide for Jones) if he retires. Expense those assets elsewhere, build up the roster, and be ready to surge forward either with Jones’ resurgence in 2023 or a strong situation for the next guy in 2024.

You can check out the full offseason plan below…