Mazz: Robert Kraft needs to step in on Mac Jones
OK, nobody likes a meddling owner. But it’s time for Robert Kraft to step in on Mac Jones.
Truth be told, it might already be too late, if for no other reason than the fact that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick now seems intent on driving Jones into the ground, come hell or high water. On Sunday against the New York Giants, Jones finished with a 27.8 quarterback rating in the Patriots’ 10-7 defeat, though that is only a number. (For what it’s worth, that is the lowest rating of Jones’ career for any game in which he has taken more than half of the team’s snaps.) Anyone who watched saw Jones basically hyperventilating on the sidelines, which is understandable given where his career has plummeted. Whether Jones has a remaining future is debatable, but that’s hardly the point. If there is still a shred of that future remaining, Belichick seems on a mission to destroy it.
So is Kraft just going to stand by and let this happen?
Or, at some point, is the owner of the Patriots actually going to step in and prevent his coach from committing what is now bordering on abuse?
If you see some irony in all of this, you should. From the day Jones arrived in Foxboro, we have wondered who really wanted him. In his long and illustrious career – and we’re not being smug or sarcastic there – Bill Belichick has never (repeat: never) taken a quarterback in the first round of the draft before the Patriots selected Jones. In a draft video created and publicized by the team, the Patriots certainly wanted to give the appearance that Jones was the result of a collaborative decision. Given Belichick’s long-standing and well-earned reputation as a control freak, the opposite was probably true. So the Krafts put a video out there that made it look like Belichick was actually evolving, that his past failures in the draft were now being addressed internally.
Think about it: Over the years – specifically with regard to expenditures – Patriots ownership likes to tell us that Belichick is in charge of all football matters. But when it came to drafting Jones, well, the team clearly wanted everyone to know that the drafting of players had become a more collaborative process, a line that Belichick was still walking as recently as Monday.
“Collectively, we were all for that,” he said when asked who was behind the decision to draft Jones.
Translation: Don’t pin that on just me. The owner wanted me to collaborate so that’s what I did.
So here we are now, more than halfway through Jones’ third season, and Belichick appears on a mission to further expose Jones with each passing week. Jones has been pulled from the game four times in 11 starts this season, an astonishing rate of 36.3 percent. The incredible truth is that fans watching any Patriots game this season are more likely to see Jones pulled than they are to see the Patriots convert on third down (33.6 percent), ratios that are invariably linked. The more Jones fails at the latter, the more likely he is to be subjected to the former. And yet, Belichick keeps putting him out there, behind a dreadful offensive line, with a worse supporting cast than the Jackson 5. (OK, so Jones isn’t exactly Michael Jackson. But you get the idea.)
On Sunday, after Jones threw his second interception of the game late in the second quarter, removing him from the game – for pure football reasons – was an obvious decision. And yet, incredibly, Belichick sent Jones back out there. With less than two minutes remaining before halftime and his team trailing only by a 7-0 score, Jones fumbled on a third-down strip sack and nearly turned the ball over again. The Patriots fortunately recovered and later executed one more snap just before the half, a pedestrian run by Ezekiel Elliott. At halftime, finally, Jones was pulled for Bailey Zappe.
Think about that. With 1:48 to go in the half, already knowing that Jones was going to be pulled, Belichick sent him back onto the field, deep in New England territory, at which point Jones nearly turned the ball over again. Is that, as Belichick often likes to suggest, doing the best thing for the team? Or is that more likely to have been some combination of foolish, petty, vindictive, reckless and downright stupid? And if Belichick was trying to save Jones some embarrassment and preserve the player a shred of dignity, why did he play him at all?
As usual, in the subsequent media “exchange” that took place after the game, Belichick did himself no favors.
Q: Can you pinpoint why Mac looks like he’s regressed since his rookie year?
A: Well, look, our job is to get everybody to play as well as they can, so that’s what we’re going to try to do.
Q: Was it your plan to play (quarterback) Bailey (Zappe) the second half, or was that more of a result of what happened in the first half?
A: I told everybody to be ready to go. I think they both deserved to play.
I think they both deserved to play. Which is another way of saying that neither deserved to.
Now, as Rex Ryan pointed out, do both Patriots quarterbacks stink? Yes. Indisputably. At least at this moment. Belichick thought so little of Zappe that the Patriots placed him on waivers at the end of training camp. Jones, meanwhile, has regressed to subterranean levels, perhaps forever. Still, the Patriots have invested a great deal in him, not the least of which was a first-round pick. Maybe that already has been wasted, too. But if Bill Belichick is to be jettisoned after this season – and one cannot imagine any way he survives now – then Jones might still have something to give, even if to someone other than the Patriots. Given the clownery with which Belichick has enveloped Jones during the player’s young career, Kraft owes his young quarterback that much. And even if he saves Jones now, he has arrived way too late.
Odd, isn’t it?
Up until now, some may have assumed that Jones was playing only because Kraft wanted him to play.
But now, as Jones publicly disintegrates into nothing under the watch of Bill Belichick, Kraft should want the opposite.
And he needs to make that clear to his negligent lame-duck coach.