There may be no more polarizing a figure in Boston sports these days than Patriots third-year quarterback Mac Jones.
Even simple questions about the for-now leader of the New England football squad have layered, complicated answers. As such, analyzing Jones’ work in the first two weeks of this supposed make-or-break, bounce-back season is not as easy as one might expect.
On the surface, Jones’ 0-2 record on the young year, his first work with new, capable, competent, functional offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, would indicate the still-young passer isn’t getting the job done. After all, winning games is a quarterback’s job. But having an 0-2 record doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad quarterback, just ask Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert or Russell Wilson. Well, maybe not Wilson.
Statistically, through two contests Jones leads the NFL in attempts and completions. He ranks sixth in yards and 11th in completion percentage. He’s tied for fourth in TD passes. That all sounds pretty good, right? Sure, but he’s also thrown an interception in each game, leaving his overall passer rating a less-than-desirable 88.3, not-so-good for 19th in the NFL. In a pair of one-score losses each of those picks either gave points directly to the opponent (Eagles) or took place in the red zone to take away points from the Patriots.
There have been stretches in both games, certainly the second quarter against the Eagles in the opener when Jones competed 11 straight passes for touchdown drives, that the former No. 15 overall pick has played this September as well as he has at any point in his professional career in New England.
But, there have also been the late-game stretches when he had chances for the comeback, chances to put his mark on the game and the young season, and failed to lead his team to the end zone. Moral victories and tough-luck losses through two games are the story the season and his season.
And they certainly don’t carry the same weight as actual wins on the scoreboard.
Even Jones’ results and statistics aren’t simple as they seem or maybe should be.
Yes, he’s 0-2 as a starting quarterback in 2023. But he’s 0-2 as a starting quarterback in 2023 working behind an offensive line that’s been a hodgepodge of inexperienced or ill-prepared talent. He’s been under pressure plenty and even O’Brien’s game plans have focused on getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible with the inherent expectation that the line – guys making their NFL debuts or journeymen types seeing their first snaps in a New England uniform on the starting fly – won’t get its job done at anything near a desired level.
Oh, and while Jones has faced off against fellow Alabama quarterback teammates with elite weapons making up arguably two of the top wide receiver combinations in the NFL – Jalen Hurts’ Eagles with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith followed by Tua Tagovailoa’s Dolphins with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle – he does so with a mediocre at best case of targets that wouldn’t measure up on some college football depth charts.
Through it all, though, Patriot Nation has apparently tried to stay positive. At least a majority of them. At least based on a very unscientific poll of Twitter followers.
In advance of recording our latest “6 Rings” podcast here at WEEI I asked a very simple question on Twitter: “After two games, how do you feel about #Patriots QB Mac Jones?” Response options included Better, worse or the same.
The good news for Jones is that a majority of respondents, 52.9 percent, feel better about him. That was followed by 37.6 percent of fans who feel the same. And just 9.5 percent who feel worse.
That’s a somewhat hopeful assessment with 15 games remaining on the schedule, beginning with Sunday’s trip to New York to take on the rival Jets. Because at best the results on the field to this point have been mediocre. That’s left Jones as the mediocre QB of a mediocre team. A QB and a team that badly need a win.
Jones certainly has his passionate, vocal critics on sports talk radio. And if we’re being honest they have early-season, weak-armed fuel for their beliefs.
But he also has pretty ardent supporters in various corners of the football world. And they, too, have early-season, functional fuel for their opinions.
Is he a really good quarterback right now? Nope.
Is he a terrible QB? Nope.
So, how do we feel about Mac Jones through two weeks of action in his make-or-break third season?
Well, it’s complicated.
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