If there is one thing that Mac Jones has done consistently well this season, it’s say the right thing.
The second-year QB has absolutely done his best to articulate and express what his coaches probably want him to say from the first media meeting of the offseason through this short holiday week’s preparations for a pretty big Thanksgiving night battle with the 8-2 Vikings in Minnesota.
And while we may take such QB leadership for granted around here, in light of Zach Wilson’s immature handling of his job in New York Jones deserves credit where credit is due.
Jones has followed the thumb-pointing, mirror-gazing leadership style that’s been prioritized for years in Foxborough from Drew Bledsoe through Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to the present day. It may seem simple – maybe not so much for Wilson and his ilk – but “we” win whereas “I” need to be better after losses.
Unfortunately relative accountability and professionalism has arguably been Jones’ top accomplishment as the obvious spokesman and leader in New England, a role that’s inherent in the quarterback job whether it’s embraced or not. All along the way, Jones has admirably professed his faith in just about everything and everyone around him, even as seemingly everything and everyone around him has let him down.
Remember those summer proclamations about how much he loved the “open conversation” that was the Patriots’ offense under the new collaborative approach with Matt Patricia, Joe Judge and Belichick doing their best to replace the single-minded, proven stability of Josh McDaniels? When Jones said he and his ill-prepared, inexperienced quarterbacks coach Judge were teaching each other, it almost sounded reasonable.
There was the support of Patricia’s general intelligence and coaching experience, supposedly an asset to Jones and the offense.
Oh, and the never-ending faith in the “process” was second-level salesmanship for a guy who was in the midst of daily practice session debacles in the new, streamlined offense that was marketed as a way to give New England’s playmakers chances to make plays. Outside onlookers may have been comparing Jones’ August action on the fields behind Gillette Stadium to Tim Tebow’s work as his part-time fullback‘s last-ditch effort to salvage his quarterback career petered out on those same practice fields, but No. 10 simply talked about getting one-percent better on a daily basis.
Jones’ see-no-evil approach has continued throughout the regular season. Anyone with eyes and a lick of football knowledge knows that Jones has been let down on essentially a weekly basis by an offensive line that’s been as unsettled as it’s been inept. But Jones keeps on emphatically praising the play of the big men in front of him.
This week, the leader of the NFL’s 31st-ranked red zone offense even pulled a new phrase out of his motivational speaking pouch, one he’s carried with him from an early college recruiting trip he took while still in high school, to say the Patriots simply need to “flip the switch” in that critical area of the field that’s been such a struggle. What he didn’t say is that it must be a magical switch, one that suddenly bestows the New England offense with the kind of impact playmakers and fine-tuned scheme it needs to succeed.
Maybe Jones’ best spoken word work of the season came this past Monday during his weekly interview on “Merloni, Fauria & Mego” on WEEI when he was asked if he felt like the Patriots offense that was coming off its ugly, three-point effort against the Jets was “close” to getting to where it needs to be, especially in those red zone struggles.
“I really do. I really do,” Jones responded, saying it twice and seemingly emphasizing “really” to sell it. Maybe he was trying to convince himself. Maybe he was doing the sell-job he’s done all year through endless struggles that have put his critical second NFL season in position to fail. Either way, he did it. He said what he’s supposed to say, as he has all year long.
Unfortunately, by no fault of his own, we’ve all learned this season that Jones can’t really be taken at his word, because he’s indeed a good soldier. He says what needs to be said at the time to try to help his team in any way possible. Call it spin. Call it PR. Call it leadership. Jones doesn’t hesitate, he just says it.
Belichick’s decisions and team makeup put Jones in a terrible position. On the field, the young passer has certainly regressed in his development in large part due to the coaching, blocking and playmaking failures around him.
But off the field, as the leader and spokesman of not just the offense but the entire time, New England’s quarterback captain has pretty much said all the right things.
So he’s got that goin’ for him, which is nice.
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