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On one hand, much of what Kurt Warner said in his recent YouTube breakdown of Mac Jones and the Patriots offense isn’t news to most fans.
Anyone who watches this offense, which ranks 21st in yards gained, 25th in offensive DVOA AND 26th in EPA per play can tell that it’s simplistic and poorly executed.
But to hear him talk about the effect it could be having on Jones in his second NFL season makes it feel more and more as if the Patriots are playing with the young quarterback’s career. He’s not the only former quarterback to think that, either.
In his latest blog, ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss relays more damning accounts from Warner and ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck about the Patriots’ offense and what Jones has had to overcome in 2022.
"It's hard to watch him this year because I don't think they’re helping him out very much," Hasselbeck said via ESPN. "I thought he did a really great job last year -- the best quarterback in his class -- and he hasn't been nearly as good this year."
So what’s wrong, and how much of it is on Jones?
The turnovers, obviously, are always going to be at least partly on Jones, particularly some of the footballs he forced into tight coverage earlier in the season. (To his credit, he hasn’t thrown an interception in his last three games.)
He also missed an open receiver on a key late sack against the Vikings last week because his eyes were in the wrong place (staring down Jakobi Meyers on an "over" route), leading him not to see Hunter Henry open in the flat on third down.
But a good portion of the problem, Warner believes, is that the dysfunction around Jones has caused him to “overthink things” and make poorer decisions with the football as opposed to last season when he seemed to play faster and smoother.
In the process, the Hall-of-Famer thinks the Patriots have compromised his greatest asset as a quarterback: his mind.
"One of the things I loved about Mac last year is that he's so good at processing information. Sometimes last year I thought he processed information too fast, meaning he got off certain reads too quickly because they hadn't developed," Warner told ESPN.com. "This year, I think they've kind of taken his superpower away because they've simplified everything.
"I think you have to challenge him mentally. I think you have to be more creative with your offense, more creative in the red zone, to give him more opportunities. I've wondered if that's something that might be going on with Mac -- is it hard for him to get excited and prepared when you have a game plan that is so simplistic?”
Hearing that makes you wonder about all those reports about Jones being a “why” guy in a whole new way. Maybe people might be frustrated about Jones asking too many questions if they don’t have the answers or can’t design something interesting enough to challenge his mind.
On top of that, Hasselbeck notes the Patriots are only just now regularly incorporating good checkdown options or short throws to offset the multiple vertical routes the Patriots often send down the field, the lack of which has led Jones to take a number of sacks this season that probably don’t happen in 2021.
Part of that problem, Hasselbeck said, is the fact that New England’s coaching staff doesn’t “have a ton of experience seeing things through the quarterback lens,” which feels like a tremendous red flag when you’re developing a quarterback.
Both Warner and Hasselbeck agree that Jones is “not the problem” and put it on the offensive staff to shore things up around him.
“Somehow they have to get him back to that, to challenge him in a way that his greatest strengths come out,” Warner said. “I don't think they're doing that right now -- and with that, they're not getting the same quarterback."
The growing consensus seems clear: New England is asking Jones to overcome far too much self-created adversity in his second season as a quarterback – a year when you should be building a young passer up and preparing him to break out in Year 3.
To his credit, Jones has started to dig himself out of the hole he found himself in after his first four games, and in some cases it feels like he’s done it despite what’s going on around him.
It’s just a shame he has to do that on his own team’s account and that the success or failure of this team’s playoff push likely rests on his ability to drag this anchor across the finish line.