Every end has a beginning.
And for Mac Jones, the beginning of the end of his time as the Patriots’ franchise QB may have come in the second quarter of Sunday evening’s embarrassing 38-3 loss in Dallas.
Two-plus years into his New England career, it felt like things bottomed out in Big D for Jones.
Sure the former first-round pick has thrown interceptions before, including pick-6s like the one that hit Cowboys’ cornerback DaRon Bland in stride on the way to the 54-yard touchdown.
And obviously Jones has dealt with pressure before, including strip sacks like the fumble forced by Dante Fowler that led to the scoop-and-score opportunity for linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
But this seemed different. This looked uglier. Had a more fatalistic feel and finality to it.
And those two key big plays were far from the only problems for Jones.
He appeared overwhelmed at times at AT&T Stadium. He made bad decisions, bad reads and bad throws. That’s a bad trio for what looked very much like a very bad quarterback.
He seemed to almost melt down in his 35th NFL start, the critical factor in losing his third game of the season and 18th of his career to fall below .500 as a professional.
Bill Belichick had mercy on his young passer, ending the misery for all involved by pulling him in favor of backup Bailey Zappe in the third quarter after yet another ugly interception, because the coach “didn’t see the point” in leaving Jones in the game.
But at this point, couldn’t the same argument be made in regards to Jones’ career in New England and opportunities and time the team is investing in him at the most important position in all of sports.
What’s the point? It isn’t working. The sample size is large enough and the results lackluster enough at best.
The truth became incredibly clear Sunday evening in Dallas, the Patriots are or soon will be in the market for a quarterback. They may be stuck with Jones for the present, but he can no longer be seen as the future of the team or the franchise. He’s just not physically or mentally cut out for the job.
That latter part is the final straw and the most disappointing part. The football world knew even when Jones was living the high life at Alabama and headed toward the draft that he didn’t have some of the physical tools of others, the kind that NFL teams lust after these days. But he was supposed to be a brilliant football mind, a processer of plays and decisions to behold. He is not. His risk analysis on every snap is actually pretty putrid at times. He does dumb things. He doesn’t seem to know his own physical limitations. He gets himself in trouble on the field as much as his line and receivers do.
And this is by no means all Jones’ fault. He’s a big part of the Patriots problem, but not nearly the only problem Robert Kraft’s organization is facing in what is now year four post-Tom Brady in New England.
The roster built by Belichick and Patriots Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh isn’t good enough, especially on offense. There have been too many bad decisions in free agency – just when you move past Jonnu Smith and Nelson Agholor, you realize what JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki really are – and too many missed or slowly developing draft picks.
Belichick currently oversees a middling at best roster that also happens to play sloppy, self-destructive football for the third straight season. Hey national TV analysts here’s a tip, those aren’t “uncharacteristic mistakes!” It’s who the Patriots now are and have been for the last few years. Time to update your talking points.
But for the here and now of today this isn’t about whether Belichick is on the hot seat. This isn’t about how Kraft wants to turn his ship around to get to his mandated “contender” status once again.
This is about a realization that Jones isn’t the guy. That Jones won’t be the guy. He’s not him. And he never will be.
The Patriots lost one game in Dallas on Sunday in really, really demoralizing fashion. The worst beatdown of Belichick’s career at the hands of the Cowboys. Kraft having to sit back and watch Jerry Jones revel in the “surreal” nature of it all. Having to listen to the Fox broadcast spend the final quarter questioning the direction of the once-great New England franchise for its national TV audience.
That can’t sit well at One Patriot Place.
But Mac Jones was the story of this one.
He lost whatever benefit of the doubt he had left in Patriots Nation.
Jones lost his theoretical long-term stronghold on the New England QB job.
Objective fans and media lost any final faith in Jones.
That’s quite a loss, one he won’t likely recover from.
For Jones, the countdown to the end of his time in New England has already begun.
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