The 2021 New England Patriots season was an absolute roller coaster of emotions. In the beginning it looked like the Patriots would have a repeat of 2020 with a 2-4 start. Then came the seven consecutive wins that had catapulted the Patriots into contention conversations. December and January rolled around, and those contention conversations quickly faded. The Patriots finally ended their season with a disastrous postseason massacre at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.
As dissapointing as the finale may have been, I believe there is one thing we as Patriots fans can take solace in. Despite the roller coaster season, the New England Patriots have found their next franchise quarterback. His name is McCorkle.
Listen, I know Mac Jones was a big reason for the late season collapse down to the six seed. The rookie faced some good defenses and looked like a rookie, sue him. Regardless, Mac was far and away the best rookie QB and showed potential for a solid career to come. Even with the poor month of December added to his resume, I am excited for the future with Mac. I really am.
He’s gotten an unfair amount of criticism in my opinion in the past month. He didn’t play well against teams like the Colts, Bills, and Dolphins, that much I can admit. Let’s be honest though, those three teams all have great defenses. Most quarterbacks would not view those teams as walks in the park. I’m not too worried if a rookie struggles against elite defenses, that’s to be expected.
Mac Jones got more criticism for those three losses than Trevor Lawrence got all season. I know there’s a trend in my writing to hate on Lawrence, but the man had a truly terrible rookie season. Not enough people are talking about it. Yes, he was on the Jaguars. That doesn’t entirely excuse him for leading the league in interceptions (17) and finishing 28th in touchdowns (12). More people are hating on Mac because he struggled against solid competition for a handful of games. Lawrence on the other hand had one more touchdown than Trevor Siemian and yet no one bats on eye. Like I said, Jaguars excuse included, it was still really bad.
Enough with the Lawrence comparison though. Mac truthfully had a phenomenal year, better than I expected honestly. His final state line reads:
- 24 Touchdowns (12th)
- 4,033 Yards (12th)
- 67.3% Completion Percentage (9th)
- 7.2 Yards Per Attempt (14th)
- 91.3 QB Rating (17th)
Not saying he had a Justin Herbert type rookie season. Mac though was in the top half of the league in most categories, and was far ahead of most of his rookie counterparts. Texans’ rookie Davis Mills was the only rookie QB who came anywhere near Mac’s numbers.
Also mix in the fact that the Patriots receiving corps still isn’t that great, and Josh McDaniels play calling was at times horrific this season, Mac still produced. Most importantly, he helped get them to ten wins and a playoff berth. That’s more than you can ask for from your rookie.
This season was never supposed to be one of contention. It was a rebuilding year, a chance to develop Mac and get him some valuable experience. He got that and then some, and I believe he is on the path to becoming a good/great NFL quarterback. The potential is there.
Coming into the season my best pro comp for Mac was Kirk Cousins. Although I still think that is a fair comparison, I’m now starting to think Mac resembles somebody a little closer to his age group. That somebody of course being Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow. It’s a comparison I’ve been seeing float around the past couple weeks, and it’s one I agree with a lot.
People may not want to admit it, but Mac and Burrow are quite similar. Even how they got to this point is quite similar. Neither has a super strong arm. Burrow can run more than Mac can, but no one would mistake Burrow for a Lamar Jackson or a Jalen Hurts. What makes them good is they are accurate passers, have great footwork, and have a composure to them that you don’t see in young players like them.
Burrow has more swagger, but Mac has the poise and attitude of a 10 year veteran in the league. Both came from prominent SEC programs, having all-time offensive seasons on the road to a national title. Both were overlooked for most their collegiate run, until that one breakout season. Burrow had a solid rookie year, but his production was quite similar to that of Mac’s. Burrow of course only played 10 games due to a knee injury, but their averages were on par.
Burrow’s mobility will make his ceiling higher than Mac’s, but Mac can be like Burrow. He can have that big 2nd year improvement. Burrow’s game is built off of accuracy, timing, pocket presence, and poise. That’s Mac to a tee.
However, if New England is going to get Mac there, they are going to have to get him some help like the Bengals did for Burrow. New England’s offensive line is MUCH better than Burrow’s, so that’s a plus. The weapons around Jones however are very dim in comparison to Cincinnati.
Kendrick Bourne was a great addition, and is a steady option in the passing game. As is Jakobi Meyers. Neither however are big time game changers are rather complimentary weapons. Hunter Henry proved solid as a red zone target. The Patriots however need a top guy. A receiver that makes defenses scared.
The Patriots have nothing resembling a Tee Higgins or a Ja’Marr Chase. Getting players like those won’t be easy, but there are some options. Names like Calvin Ridley and D.K. Metcalf could be available this offseason. Chris Godwin is another name that comes to mind who could really help expand this offense.
It will take some creative work on New England’s part, but they need to get Mac a top weapon. Chase helped Burrow take a massive leap, and I’m sure someone like a Calvin Ridley could do the same for Jones.
He needs some help, but Mac’s potential is still very high to me. Only time will tell, but for Mac Jones, I still believe the future is very bright.
Photo: (Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)