Purely a disclaimer, let’s acknowledge the obvious: the season is one week old. The fortunes of the 2022 Patriots could change at any moment. The Pats should be better than they looked in Week 1, though that has been true since the very beginning of training camp.
But a year ago at this time, after a Week 1 loss to Miami, Patriots fans were suggesting that Mac Jones looked like a real NFL quarterback and that the player’s development was far more important than the wins and losses.
So shouldn’t that still be at least partly true?
This week, amid the steady flow of criticism heaped at Bill Belichick, there has been an undercurrent of criticism for Jones, who is now in his second season. Maybe those are simply Belichick bobos looking to balance the scales. Maybe those are people who never liked Jones in the first place. But if you listen to calls or read emails – always a dangerous barometer, for sure – there has been at least of smattering of commentary like that here, which was received in an email:
Mac Jones blows … legitimately the weakest arm in the league without question … can’t throw down the sideline because his arm is junk, and he can’t throw across the middle besides the atrocious hospital balls that are going to get his receivers killed … Mac Jones is terrible.
Is any or all of this true? Quite possibly. Time will tell. But given the highly unusual manner in which Belichick constructed his coaching staff in the wake of Josh McDaniels’ departure, it also suggests some further negligence on the part of the coach.
The point: Jones’ development isn’t all physical. It doesn’t all take place on the field. It also takes place in the court of public opinion, where the quarterback (as always) is likely to take a verbal beating when the team plays poorly, especially after scoring only seven points. Jones took a few hellacious hits on Sunday – on the field – and he’s already starting to take some shots off it.
In both cases, Bill Belichick is failing to provide him the proper protection.
Admittedly, for Jones, the training wheels had to come off at some point. In some ways, it might as well be now. But one fan yesterday wondered whether Jones was headed down the same path as Jim Plunkett, the former Patriots quarterback and savior who was mercilessly beaten in the early part of his career. Plunkett ultimately ended up winning two Super Bowls … with the Raiders.
Of course, not everything is Bill Belichick’s fault.
But right now, it certainly feels like he has positioned his quarterback to fail.