Is Mac Jones to blame for Patriots’ ‘anti-Belichick’ start?


Michael Lombardi saw people piling on Mac Jones after a three-interception performance and said, “Hold my beer.”

On his latest addition of “The GM Shuffle” podcast, Lombardi decried the state of the Patriots, saying he's "never seen a New England team" like this 1-2 squad.

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1st & Foxborough
Patriots doing something bad teams do: turn the football over (a lot)
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"This is so anti-Belichick. It's so not who they are in that building. They just haven't been themselves," he said. "Think about it. They've had eight turnovers in three games. It's not just interceptions, it's fumbles, too.
They're not protecting the football."

This time around, it's Jones and his five interceptions drawing Lombardi's ire in particular.

"As much as I like Mac Jones, I thought Mac Jones would protect the ball and play smarter than he's played," he said. "To me, he was in danger of either changing what he did, or he is going to lose his job. You're not going to play in the NFL if you keep turning the ball over the way he was."

I'm sorry…what?

Mac Jones, whom everyone said needed to throw the ball down the field and challenge defenses more in his second season, should now potentially lose his job for…throwing the ball down the field and challenging defenses more in his second season? While learning a new offense being run by Matt Patricia, who is still learning the ropes of calling an NFL offense?

(Lombardi also said that Jones "looks good -- other than he's making stupid mistakes." So which is it: is he good aside from a few rough plays, or is he in danger of losing his job if he doesn't change?)

Sure, it's not terribly encouraging to see Jones lose his downfield gambles when he could check the ball down and take the easy completion. He currently has two more interceptions than he did at this point last season.

On the other hand, being more aggressive is how you get more explosive plays like Nelson Agholor's 44-yard touchdown and DeVante Parker's five-catch, 156-yard performance last Sunday. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Right now, Jones is still learning how to find a balance in -- checks notes -- his second NFL season.

But apparently, Lombardi is more pro-Patriots-winning than pro-Mac-Jones-developing.

"Part of the allure for me with Mac Jones is that he was going to be a smart player. Protect the football at all costs. But he's playing out of control. What does he think he is?" Lombardi quipped. "He's throwing the ball up for grabs. Seriously. You're not overly skilled, so when you're not overly skilled, you have to make up for it with good decisions, good placement. You can't hurt your team like he's been hurting his team."

Holy overreaction, Batman.

Yes, Jones can't just run around and sling the ball all over the joint like he's Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson, the quarterback who pantsed the Patriots defense in the second half last weekend.

But…is he just supposed to stay a 2001 Tom Brady/2021 Mac Jones-type game manager for the rest of his career? Why did you go out and get Parker if it wasn't to stretch the field and make plays on the 50/50 throws they've been trying to connect on this whole time?

Sure, the Patriots can't expect to win games when they're losing the turnover battle 2:1 like they are now. Jones has to limit some of the riskier throws when he returns from injury down the line -- whenever that is.

But as Bruce Arians likes to say, "No risk it, no biscuit."

If Mac Jones is to be "the guy," he's going to have to prove to opponents that he can beat them down the field. So don't be surprised when he tries to do it. As long as the big plays eventually outnumber the interceptions -- better chemistry between he and Parker could help that -- you can live with this bolder version of Jones.

In the meantime, let's shelve the hysteria. He's got a few weeks to ruminate on his plan of attack now, anyway.