Mac Jones has been compared to Tom Brady.
Some of that is due to a lack of running ability. Some of that was his dad-bod photos making the pre-draft rounds on social media. Some of it is also due to elite accuracy, reads and football IQ.
None of that matters anymore.
Now, as the 15th pick to New England in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Alabama star has a chance to indeed become the next franchise quarterback in Foxborough.
Not since tabbing Drew Bledsoe to turn things around in New England at No. 1 overall in 1993 had the Patriots targeted a quarterback in the first round. But as the fifth quarterback to come off the board, the man who threw for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions in leading the Tide to the national championship perfect season, Jones was apparently the Apple of Bill Belichick’s QB-needy eye.
Belichick attended Jones’ Alabama pro day and, of course, has a long friendship with his coach, Nick Saban. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was at the pro day, too.
“This is what I wanted all along, I can’t wait to play for really the greatest franchise in NFL history,” Jones said smiling from ear to ear immediately after the selection in Cleveland despite persistent rumors that he might be the No. 3 overall pick to the 49ers, who ended up taking North Dakota State passer Trey Lance.
Careful what you wish for, Mac.
Now, Jones faces maybe more pressure and expectations than even Bledsoe three decades ago. Back then the playoffs were good enough.
Super Bowl wins, those were still just a dream. But Brady changed all that, both for the Patriots as a franchise and the expectations of the quarterback position in New England.
And this was, after all, the most critical draft for Belichick and Co. in decades, a crossroads for the twilight of the Hall of Fame coach’s career leading the NFL’s modern dynasty.
Jones joins a rebuilt Patriots team that spent hundreds of millions of dollars in free agency. He has athletic tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith to work with. He has a veteran offensive line and a stable of talented running backs. He works with a defense expected to be much improved after a relative down year, returning Dont’a Hightower and adding Matthew Judon, among others.
Immediately after Jones’ pick, he also had Patriots social media abuzz with the hopes that the supposedly “NFL-ready” rookie QB would get a chance to win the starting job over not-so-popular incumbent Cam Newton in 2021.
“We’ll see,” Jones said on NFL Network. “I’m looking forward to taking Coach Belichick’s coaching. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Only if he’s good. Only if he wins. Only if he overcomes those who questioned his talents. Those who think he may have been a product of the system, a critique of Brady for much of his career. Those who believe he was riding the coattails of the elite talent around him at receiver, running back and offensive line.
He goes from the on-going Alabama dynasty to a Patriots dynasty in need of a reboot.
Is Jones the next Brady? Of course not. That’s silly.
But it’s not silly to say he’s expected to win the starting QB job in New England over the next year or so. That he’ll be expected to lead the Patriots back to the playoffs in the very near future and return to owner Robert Kraft’s recently expressed hope for his team “to be a contender every year.”
That’s Jones’ present and his future.
That’s the Patriots present and future.
They are one in the same.
After a year-plus of uncertainty in the post-Brady era in New England, the Patriots now have a clear future at the quarterback position.
It’s not Newton. It’s not Jarrett Stidham.
For better or worse, whether any of us on the outside like it or not, after months of speculation and analysis Mac Jones is the franchise quarterback of Belichick’s Patriots.
Strange as it may sound, getting the job was the easy part in many ways.
Now he has to prove worthy of the role.