The Patriots have made their intentions clear. Mac Jones is their starting quarterback. Jones certainly impressed in training camp and the preseason, with analysts and fans alike raving about the accuracy, poise, competitiveness, and work ethic. Even his teammates have joined in on the praise of the young quarterback:
Brian Hoyer on Mac Jones:— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) August 30, 2021
“[He] has earned the respect of his teammates, which I think is huge… Especially being a young guy on a team with a lot of veteran guys who have played here.” pic.twitter.com/i7VocLSyFn
James White on how Mac Jones was able to earn the respect and support from his teammates so quickly:— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) August 31, 2021
“He just keeps building that confidence more and more and you just start to believe in him… You could tell he has what it takes from the first practice with him.” pic.twitter.com/QrLV2BDmKc
Jones looks like he has a bright NFL future ahead of him. What all this means for the Patriots in 2021 is a different story. Even if Jones proves to be an elite talent, it’s still fair to question just how good the Patriots can be with a rookie quarterback under center. That’s not to say the Patriots should’ve stuck with Cam Newton this season and let Jones sit on the bench. Mac Jones was clearly the better player. However, it does mean that expectations may need to be tempered for the team as a result of putting a rookie quarterback at the helm.
It’s not rare to see highly drafted rookie quarterbacks start. In fact, since 2013, only one rookie quarterback taken in the first-round failed to start a game in his rookie season: Jordan Love. However, the first-year track record of those players isn’t so great. Of the 15 first-round rookie quarterbacks who have started at least 10 games since 2013, none have finished with a winning record.
First-round rookie quarterbacks records since 2013 (min. 10 starts):
- Joe Burrow: 2-7-1
- Justin Herbert: 6-9
- Kyler Murray: 5-10-1
- Daniel Jones: 3-9
- Baker Mayfield: 6-7
- Sam Darnold: 4-9
- Josh Allen: 5-6
- Josh Rosen: 3-9
- Mitch Trubisky: 4-8
- Carson Wentz: 7-9
- Jameis Winston: 6-10
- Marcus Mariota: 3-9
- Teddy Bridgewater: 6-6
- EJ Manuel: 4-6
The only rookie quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs while starting the majority of the season over that span was fourth-round pick Dak Prescott. However, it did happen three times in 2012 when Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III all took their teams to the postseason. There was a stretch between 2008 and 2012 when rookie quarterbacks commonly made the playoffs. It happened seven times in that five-year span. Strangely, it’s only happened four other times over the rest of the Super Bowl era.
Even quarterbacks who have proven to be elite talents at the position like Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen have failed to finish above .500. If Jones is able to win at a high-level with the Patriots this year, he’d be an outlier. The Patriots certainly have the talent to make the playoffs, but a few rookie mistakes along the way may cause them to lose a few more games than their talent suggests they should.
Herbert has been a name that has come up frequently by those pleading for Jones to start this season, the argument being that the Chargers original plan of starting Tyrod Taylor proved to be foolish after Herbert took home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. However, Herbert also shows us that a young quarterback will struggle to win games at the NFL level even when inheriting a roster just one year removed from a playoff berth (like Mac Jones), with a great tight end in Hunter Henry (like Mac Jones), an elite pass-catching back in Austin Eckler and two wide receivers better than anything the Patriots possess on their roster in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
That doesn’t mean the Chargers should’ve started Tyrod Taylor. Starting Herbert was the best option and so is starting Jones. It just doesn’t mean it will lead to team success in year one. Individual success? Sure. Jones could very well end up winning Rookie of the Year just like Herbert and just like Murray, and he’ll join other historic winners like… Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin III, and Eddie Lacy. It’s a nice award, but with names like those among the past winners, a playoff berth would certainly be a little more impressive.
There seems to be a seems to be a sentiment around New England that Mac Jones is the Messiah. The man who has come to save the Patriots from their great playoff drought of… *checks notes* … one year. The positivity and optimism is radiating throughout the city despite the fact that, in reality, the Patriots still have better odds of missing the playoffs than making them.
Mac Jones has been nothing short of spectacular. He’s been as good as anyone could have possibly expected so far. However, he’s still a rookie and when you start a rookie, you have to be accepting of the growing pains that come along with it. Even if it costs your team a trip to the playoffs.
Photo: (Brian Fluharty – USA Today Sports)
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