Does this Bill Belichick comment count as a vote of confidence in Mac Jones?
Bill Belichick was given an opportunity to commit to Mac Jones as his starting quarterback in 2023. He did not do that. Not definitively, anyway.
Those are just words, though. Obviously, his actions will be the real determinant to how he views Jones going forward and how he plans to improve the Patriots offense.
But back to the words. Belichick was asked during his end-of-season video conference on Monday if Jones was the guy he envisioned as the Patriots’ starter next season. While he didn’t give a definitive “Mac’s our quarterback,” he did describe Jones as a guy capable of playing somewhere in the NFL.
“Mac has the ability to play quarterback in this league,” Belichick said. “We have to all work together to try to find the best way as a football team, which obviously the quarterback is an important position, to be more productive than we were this year. So that’s incumbent upon all of us. We’ll all work together on that. Again, look for better results.”
The lack of a firm commitment to Jones will breed speculation whether Belichick has bigger plans for that spot on the roster. It’s fair to wonder if Belichick is keeping all his options open, with the possibility of another QB carousel lighting up the off-season.
But Belichick did at least commit to the idea that Jones can play. That’s an indication that he’d be comfortable going into 2023 with Jones under center. But his comment also implies that better things need to be happening around Jones in order for the offense to get those “better results” he alluded to in his presser.
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 11: Head coach Bill Belichick and Mac Jones #10 look on during pregame at Hard Rock Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
The most obvious area of improvement for the offense is not any particular player or position, but on the coaching staff. Offensive play-caller Matt Patricia and quarterbacks coach Joe Judge objectively had a rough go of it in their first seasons running that side of the ball.
The Patriots regressed significantly in terms of offensive production from 2021 to 2022, despite retaining most of the same player personnel. They went from 11th to 25th in offensive touchdowns and 15th to 26th in total yards. Most individual players also regressed, including Jones, who went from a 92.5 passer rating as a rookie to 84.8 in his second year.
As far as putting better players around Jones, that starts on the offensive line, particularly at tackle. Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn both took steps back in 2022, with questionable depth behind them, so they have a need at that position in both the short-term and the long-term. The Patriots went from the third-fewest sacks allowed in 2021 (28) to the 18th-fewest in 2022 (41).
Jan 8, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Greg Rousseau (50) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) during the first half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
It will also be interesting to see how the Patriots approach the wide receiver position. Jakobi Meyers is on track to become an unrestricted free agent and should have suitors outside of New England. They have two solid veteran receivers under contract for 2023 in Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker, and Tyquan Thornton will be entering his sophomore season.
Unless they’re banking on Thornton to become the clear-cut No. 1 pass-catcher and Jones’ go-to guy, they may look to make a significant addition at receiver in the off-season, even if they do re-sign Meyers. Get ready for DeAndre Hopkins trade rumors, among other fun-but-possibly-not-real sports topics.
Belichick repeatedly described the Patriots’ offensive regression as something they need to improve as a team. There’s no singular fix to the situation they’re in at the moment. If the plan includes keeping Jones at quarterback, then they have plenty of work to do building around him.
If Jones is not in Belichick’s plans? Well THAT’S gonna make for an interesting off-season at Patriot Place.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.