the greg hill show: Devin McCourty says this week versus the Jets is a must win
“I think what I learned the most from Tom is, you always have to put in the most work so that other guys can’t question what you’re doing.”
That's how former Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer described the way Tom Brady, the greatest player in the history of the NFL, worked for 20 years as New England’s signal caller during an appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast this week.
“If they see you doing it,” Hoyer continued. “Everybody kind of rises to that level and I think that’s what built such a great culture there.”
Fast forward to 2023, and the Patriots sit at 0-2 with now-quarterback Mac Jones seemingly struggling with buy-in. Not his own, per se, but rather others gravitating towards it.
“Definitely got to play better and learn from it,” Jones explained following Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins that pushed his team further down the AFC East standings. “You know, be here early and leave late and do it together. I think that's the biggest thing. If a couple guys are doing it, it's not good enough, clearly. So we’ve got to put more into it and get more out of it.”
Jones has since clarified these comments and insisted he wasn’t questioning his teammates’ motivation, but it still sounds like he wants to see more out of everybody:
“Whatever you’re doing, just do more,” he told WEEI’s Jones and Mego on Monday afternoon. “It’s not like it’s rocket science. If you watch 30 minutes of film, watch an hour. If you lift for 45 minutes, lift for an hour and a half. Just whatever you can do so what when we’re in this situation – you know for me, that’s how I feel better about everything. You can only put in so much work. There’s 24 hours in a day, you have to sleep for 8-10 of them. All of the other hours have to be about work.”
You can’t question the time No. 10 puts in. The 2021 first-round pick spent the entirety of his offseason in the New England area, working with teammates at local high school fields to try and jumpstart their offense. He was also reportedly one of a handful of players training at the Gillette Stadium facilities daily.
It’s not just Jones who’s pleading for more buy-in from this Patriots team. Fellow captain Ja’Whaun Bentley also reportedly spoke to the club in the locker room after the loss, with the message being that they all need to do more.
The Patriots of old, the ones that won six Super Bowl titles, weren't just a one-man quarterback show. They were comprised of core pieces like Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty, Tedy Bruschi, and Mike Vrabel just to name a few. Natural-born leaders who, as Hoyer points out, had the attitude of “no one’s going to outwork us. It’s hard as sh*t here. You come in every day, Bill makes it as hard as possible, but it’s the grind that kind of brings us all together.”
Hoyer continued: “I always loved the locker room there. It was always the tightest-knit locker rooms I’ve been in because, I think, we all suffered together through the meetings. You’d go into the meeting with Bill and it’s like a 40-minute lowlights. When those lights go off and you’re like ‘f***, what play did I mess up yesterday that’s going to be on this lowlight.’ And I think it created this bond between us. I was as close with the defensive backs, the defensive line, as I was the receivers, the offensive line, and I think that showed in the way we played.”
What has changed since these teams of old is (obviously) the quarterback, but also an overall shift in leadership. The Patriots current captains are Jones, Bentley, Matthew Slater, David Andrews, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Hunter Henry, and while four of the six have both played in and won a Super Bowl, it’s still a drastic overhaul from the team that used to be a shoo-in for the AFC title game.
When asked again about both he and his teammates "doing more" on Wednesday, Jones said that the Patriots, "keep talking about being close and I think a lot of that just comes from a little bit of extra work. That's what I've noticed with different people. I like to read and see other athletes -- what they do. That's just what a lot of good athletes do, so. I'm trying to do that, but you can't press. Gotta let things come to you."
So what’s the fix for this New England team? Is it more work? A tighter bond? Longer days? Belichick being more of a stickler like he used to be? It’s hard to say. But after falling to 0-2, a record that gives them, statistically, just an 11.5% chance of making the postseason, they should try just about anything to get this train on track.
Including but not limited to, Mac Jones continuing to take a page out of Tom Brady’s playbook. Or, as we should probably call it, workbook.