Felger & Mazz

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The problem with winning a lot, if such a thing can be said, is that you know what winning looks like. More importantly, you know what losing looks like, too. And you have a good knowledge of the very vast space in between.

Which brings us to Mac Jones.

Now halfway through his second NFL season, Jones has indisputably regressed this season, plummeting toward the bottom NFL quarterback rankings in a variety of categories. The question is why. The Patriots have a bad offensive line and inexperienced offensive coaches, and that combination can make it difficult to evaluate in a sport where vacuums don’t exist.

Is Jones a bad quarterback, per se? No. But again, that’s not the question. The question is whether he’s good enough to go where the Patriots and their fans want him to take them.

And it doesn’t feel like he is.

  • Playmaking

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 06: Dayo Odeyingbo #54 of the Indianapolis Colts get ahold of Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 06, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 06: Dayo Odeyingbo #54 of the Indianapolis Colts get ahold of Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 06, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Ask yourself this: is Jones a playmaker? And the answer is no. And if you think you can win in the current NFL without a playmaker at quarterback, we respectfully disagree. That doesn’t mean every playmaker is a franchise quarterback because there are obviously other variables. But, again, ask yourself this: what’s the most memorable and impactful play of his career so far? Does he even have one? Truth be told, it’s even difficult to identify Jones’ most impactful win.

    For a moment, forget the turnovers and sacks. In the NFL this season, there are 38 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 90 passes. Jones ranks 36th in touchdown percentage. He ranks 26th in yards per completion. He has one rushing touchdown and is averaging 3.1 yards per attempt. The point? He doesn’t pass the ball into the end zone and he hasn’t run it there. The latter isn’t going to change. The former raises questions about Jones’ arm strength and tight windows in the red zone.

  • Mistakes

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 24: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots looks on from the sideline during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium on October 24, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 24: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots looks on from the sideline during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium on October 24, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    For any quarterback, the bare minimum is simple: protect the football. If you can’t do that, you can’t play. But protecting the football alone isn’t enough. Even so, Jones has faltered badly in this area, his interception percentage this season ranking worse than any quarterbacks in the league but Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and New Orleans’ Jameis Winston. In the case of Pickett, he ‘s a rookie. In the case of Winston, he lost his starting job.

    Moreover, since the start of last year, Jones has thrown more interceptions than all but four other quarterbacks in the league – and that is despite ranking 15th in attempts. On Sunday, he played without an interception for the first time this season, ending a stretch of six straight games with a pick. The failure to make plays lower Jones’ ceiling. The propensity of mistakes lowers his floor.

  • Pressure

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots and Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets talk after a game at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 30: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots and Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets talk after a game at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

    Yes, the offensive line stinks. Yes, the offensive coordinator(s) might not have a clue. But Jones has shown an inability to deal with pressure this season, which should concern you. At Alabama in 2020, Jones faced pressure on just 16.5 percent of his pass attempts, which is hardly shocking. For that Alabama team, playing quarterback was easy. Great protection. Great weapons. Lots of easy throws.

    Through October, according to Pro Football Focus, Jones ranked 31st among the 32 NFL starters at QB in passing under pressure – ahead of only New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, who routinely makes horrendous decisions. For Jones, the eye test backs up this ranking. Jones’ defenders will argue that the ineptitude of the coaching and the poor line play has Jones “sped up,” which is entirely fair. So we disagree on the why. But we all agree on the what.

    One final thing: don’t confuse passing under pressure with passing against the blitz. Blitzes can be accounted for and picked up. Pressure is often unexpected and requires an ability to execute when things break down.