We won’t know for years whether Mac Jones measures up as the Patriots next big thing and franchise QB.
But after this week’s organized team activities (OTA) session at Gillette Stadium, a continuation of the voluntary offseason workouts but first in front of a limited number of media, we do know that the No. 15 overall pick out of Alabama didn’t exactly measure up to the first impression eyeball test of some reporters in attendance.
“One thing that stands out about Mac Jones to me is his size and lack thereof. Not just compared to Cam Newton. Shorter than Stidham as well,” NBC Sports Boston wrote.
“First impression of Mac Jones is he’s definitely small,” declared WEEI.com’s own Ryan Hannable.
Before Jones had the chance to throw a single meaningful pass – even in practice, because the OTA action this week was limited to nearly two-thirds of the roster and is far from a competitive environment even when it comes to work in shorts and helmets – he is already under the bright lights and magnifying glass of life in New England. Life in Patriot Nation. Life as the soon-to-be-franchise QB of a team guided for two decades of unprecedented dynastic greatness by the GOAT, Tom Brady.
Welcome to life under the microscope, Mac!
Now, it’s also a little unfair to have expected Jones to look large and in charge in his first workout in front of anyone not collecting a paycheck from the Patriots.
Jones is listed at 6-3, 217 pounds on the Patriots.com roster.
The man he’s trying to beat out for the starting job, Cam Newton, is listed at 6-5, 245 pounds.
That’s a big difference.
But, third-year backup Jarrett Stidham is listed at 6-3, 215 and journeyman veteran Brian Hoyer as 6-2, 216.
On paper Jones is as big or bigger than two of the other three quarterbacks he was working with this week in Foxborough. So why did his size stand out, and not for the positive?
Simple, Jones is expected to be larger than life. Jones is expected to be the new big man on campus.
Stidham and Hoyer? They are simply expected to come up short and fall by the wayside in the competition.
It’s not that Jones has to literally be bigger than Newton or the competition. This isn’t 1990. You don’t have to be tall with a strong arm to play quarterback in the NFL. Look across the league, guys slight of build with mediocre arm strength are starters and stars for many teams.
It’s about a presence at quarterback. Newton has that presence, maybe the only thing going for him at this point in his career with his tenuous hold on the Belichick’s starting job in New England.
As he did working up the ranks and making his moxie known under Nick Saban’s watchful eye at Alabama, Jones needs to prove his mettle once again.
And that, rather than his size, arm strength or dad-bod physique is what matters.
The good news is that’s where Jones is already opening some eyes in his own locker room and showing something that his offensive teammates didn’t know their young budding QB star had.
“Mac, good energy. Awesome guy, man. You can tell he's happy to be here. Comes to work and you just can feel his energy and his leadership already,” Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne said in a post-OTA workout Zoom call with local reporters on Thursday.
“He has a swag to him that I didn't know that he had at first. He's out there confident and that's what you need in a quarterback, and in all our players. You've gotta have confidence. He's come in with that and I think that's going to take him a long way. If you can believe in yourself in all times, for any player, you'll have success anywhere you are. So I can just see the confidence."
That’s the evaluation coming out of Gillette that matters this week, not observations on Jones’ size.
For better or worse, Jones is never going to be built like Newton or Drew Bledsoe. Or, the guy whose “it” factor he was compared to in the pre-draft process for that matter, Brady.
And that’s OK. It doesn’t really matter.
Doesn’t matter that the very first impression that reporters had watching Jones practice this week was that he was short or small.
Nope. It’s about how he handles his business. How he leads. How he manages the offense and, in the end, how he produces on the field.
But as the next great Patriots quarterback (Belichick’s fingers crossed!), Jones also has to know that everything he does and says will be news in Patriot Nation.
Even when he just stands there next to the three other quarterbacks on the roster, Jones is being evaluated, dissected and debated from afar, from social media to a Southie bar.
That’s his new life in New England, probably not all that different from the life he left in the SEC in Tuscaloosa for Alabama.
First impressions of underwhelming size aside, it’s going to take a little while before we find out if Jones measures up under the microscope of life as the next great Patriots QB.