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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)

In the purest sense, maybe this is all very simple and comes down to the most elementary concept for any quarterback: Mac Jones isn’t protecting the football. And he hasn’t been for some time.

So, if you’re wondering why Jones got pulled from Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears after playing just three series and throwing only six passes, you’re not alone. And while Bill Belichick has insisted that playing both quarterbacks on Monday was part of the Patriots’ plan, this observation by Peyton Manning during Monday’s alternate broadcast on ESPN certainly suggests otherwise.

  • For all the things Manning points out above, focus most on this: the image of Jones on the sideline telling teammate Nelson Agholor, “I’m out.” As Manning points out, Jones certainly didn’t seem to act like someone who knew he was coming out of the game at that point. And if he’s telling Agholor, we can state with some certainty that his Patriots teammates also were unsure about what was transpiring at quarterback, something Rhamondre Stevenson stated after the game.

    This week, longtime Belichick Michael Lombardi then discussed Jones on his podcast, The GM Shuffle, and made things all sound pretty simple. If Jones protects the ball, he plays. If he doesn’t, he won’t. Lombardi made similar comments about Jones’ play earlier in the year, suggesting Jones had failed to recognize his own limits as a player and was being far too loose with the football.

    Here are his most recent comments:

  • Now, before we get to some of the numbers on Jones, let’s also consider the commentary of Chris Simms on his podcast, Unbuttoned. Like Lombardi, Simms made these comments after the game on Monday. For some time now, Simms and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk have spent ample time discussing the dynamic in New England between Belichick, Jones and offensive coaches Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, suggesting there was some type of disconnect or dysfunction involving the Patriots quarterback and his superiors.

    Here are Simms’ comments:

  • With all of those perspectives now out there to consume, now let’s get to the simplest facts. Bill Belichick is one of the great coaches in football history who believes in fundamentals and foundational concepts. Chief among them is protecting the football, which is something every coach puts emphasis on. And while Jones is still young, it is nonetheless important to recognize just how reckless the Patriots have been with the football, particularly at quarterback.

    For example:

  • Dating back to last season, Jones has thrown at least one interception in six straight games

    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)

    Obviously, some perspective on this is warranted. In Bill Belichick’s entire history as Patriots coach, this has never happened before. Never. The last time a Patriots quarterback threw an interception in six straight games came in 1999, when Drew Bledsoe was quarterback and Pete Carroll was the coach. That wasn’t a good season. For Belichick, you have to go all the way back to 1995 – his final year as coach of the Cleveland Browns – to find a season in which his quarterback threw an interception in at least since straight games. That was the year the Browns left Cleveland and moved to Baltimore, resulting in Belichick’s firing. It was a a disaster.

  • On a percentage basis, Jones has thrown more interceptions than any regular quarterback in football

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 19: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks to Mac Jones #10 against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half of the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 35-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 19: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks to Mac Jones #10 against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half of the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 35-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Admittedly, this requires some parameters. Jones and Bailey Zappe have basically split time so far this year, with Zappe having thrown fewer passes (92) than Jones (103). So if we set the limit to QBs with at least 90 pass attempts – a threshold that qualifies Zappe as well as Jones – there are 36 quarterbacks in the NFL this year who meet the criteria. Of those 36, Jones has thrown interceptions on 5.8 percent of his throws, the highest percentage in the league. That’s right, he ranks 36th, dead last, behind Pittsburgh rookie Kenny Pickett, Bears quarterback Justin Fields and New Orleans QB Jameis Winston, the last of whom just lost his job to Andy Dalton. Thanks to his two-interception performance on Monday, Zappe ranks 31st, which brings us to this:

  • Overall, the Patriots' quarterback play has deteriorated badly

    CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 16: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks to Bailey Zappe #4 of the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

    CLEVELAND, OHIO – OCTOBER 16: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks to Bailey Zappe #4 of the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

    Last year, in Jones’ rookie season, the Patriots finished 16th in the NFL in interception percentage, a number that can easily be looked at as a positive. Jones was a rookie. An average performance was a good goal. But as a team, the Patriots now rank dead last in interception percentage – 32 out of 32 – which speaks to a deterioration in overall quarterback play. The obvious question is why. Did Belichick’s decision to employ longtime loyalists Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as offensive coaches – something they had never really done before – alienate¬† Jones and undermine his quarterback’s developments? And, as Simms suggests, has Jones rebelled? Has Jones been slow to buy in and unwilling to accept responsibility, as Lombardi further offered?¬† Both probably possess at least some truth. Whatever the explanation or solution, the Patriots need to figure it out relatively quickly or they will end up precisely where they are now entering Sunday’s game in New York against the Jets.

    And where are they now?

    They’re lost.