When it comes to narratives in the NFL, everything operates on a week-to-week basis. As football fans, we are very reactionary in the way we view things. Recency bias often clouds the mind of the everyday NFL fan. It is truly crazy how from one week to the next, a narrative can change so drastically. There’s no better example of this than the current state of Patriots’ rookie Mac Jones.
Rewind back to two weeks ago, both the national and local media couldn’t get enough of Mac Jones. There was high praise thrown the rookie’s way, many hailing him to be the steal of the draft. Even Vegas showed him some intense love, as his rookie of the year odds skyrocketed to as high as -600 on some books.
Bring it back to present day, and the narrative has changed a bit. Two bad games, with an especially awful showing in a key spot against the rival Bills at home, have caused many to start panicking on Jones. People are beginning to jump off the Mac train, which if you ask me is quite the mistake.
So Mac Jones has played 15 games this season, and that’s how many Cam played last year with New England…— Henry (losing record fiend) (@henry_p2312) December 26, 2021
Cam Newton in 2020 had 21 tds and 11 turnovers
Mac Jones this year has 18 tds and 14 turnovers
Mac Jones also had the better supporting cast…
F A S C I N A T I N G
re-watching pats-bills and mac jones reminds me of a young old ben roethlisberger— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) December 28, 2021
This is why you make Mac Jones beat you. He can't.— Nate Geary (@NateGearySports) December 26, 2021
If they end up giving Mac Jones Offensive Rookie of the Year, Jamarr Chase and Creed Humphrey should file a class action against the voters.— nick wright (@getnickwright) December 26, 2021
I could continue on, but I think you get the point I’m trying to make. The Mac slander is starting to become quite loud, which is highly unfortunate. It’s expected from the national media, but to see so many Patriots fans also panicking on Mac is a bit dissapointing.
Let me say right now, please put your panic buttons away. It’s not time to worry about Mac Jones at all. He’s not a bust, nor do I think he will become one. He’s a rookie QB, and contrary to popular belief, rookie QBs can often times struggle early in their careers.
Don’t believe me? I’m sure the Jaguars, Bears, Jets, and Texans this year can give you some insight. Trevor Lawrence, whom the media appointed “Chosen One,” has just a single touchdown pass since Halloween. Life and linebackers come at you fast in the NFL, and often times it’s a rough adjustment period for these young players.
Mac was by far the most NFL ready, and he’s proven that. It’s the very reason why for most of the year he has been pretty good and has helped the Patriots to a 9-6 record in 15 starts. It hasn’t necessarily been pretty all the time, but he’s done what the team has asked of him. He consistently puts New England in a place where they can win football games.
His stat line isn’t going to wow you, but it’s pretty good in the context of him being a rookie signal caller. He’s currently 9th in the NFL with a 67.2% completion percentage. He’s only that low due to the last two weeks him completing just 52% of his passes. So even with the recent rutt he’s in, he’s still one of the best in the league in completion percentage. The only other rookie above 60% right now besides Mac is Davis Mills at 66.5%.
His 18 touchdowns don’t seem like a lot, but that is literally double what Trevor Lawrence has this year. Not to keep dumping on Trevor, but I don’t see any criticism being thrown his way. Mac has thrown the ball nearly 100 times fewer, has double the touchdowns and nearly 100 more yards than Trevor. Yet, two bad games against top NFL defenses, and people already want to panic and worry about Mac’s development.
There is plenty of room for improvement for Mac. No one ever said he is perfect. He needs to work on his deep ball, which us a weak point right now for him. I also believe he holds onto the ball a tad bit too long, a bad habit he will have to shake.
The negatives I’ve seen are things that can absolutely be worked on and modified. He has regularly shown this year that he is an accurate passer, makes the right decisions, great footwork in the pocket, and doesn’t get rattled often. The good outweighs the bad.
There are a few key reasons why I believe no one should panic. First and foremost as I just mentioned, he’s a rookie. Rookies need time to develop and grow. The guy that outdueled him on Sunday in Foxborough did not have the hottest start. Josh Allen’s rookie year did not exactly wow a lot of people.
Secondly, the last two weeks have seen Mac face two of the best defenses in the NFL. A great quarterback could struggle against the defenses of the Colts and Bills, so it’s not surpsing to see a rookie’s level of play dip a bit. Special teams and defense for New England have been particularly dissapointing these last two games, putting extra pressure on a kid who already had enough pressure facing those defenses.
Third, the offense around Mac isn’t exactly top tier. New England made an attempt to improve their receiving corps after last year’s disastrous group. I would say they did a pretty good job at upgrading. That isn’t saying too much though, considering Damiere Byrd was the 2nd best receiver New England had last year.
Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, and Hunter Henry have been solid additions, but none of them are exactly top flight options in the passing game. Bourne and Agholor are good complimentary receivers, meaning if they Patriots had a true number one, they would be solid secondary options. As good as even Jakobi Meyers has been, he is not a number one option either. New England doesn’t have a true number one guy, and it shows.
Mix in the fact that OC Josh McDaniels has been ultra conservative when it comes to calling pass plays for Mac, and you get a recipe for a QB that can’t exactly flourish. Again, not saying Mac can’t, but I do think there is serious work to do. Not just on Mac’s end, but the team’s end as well.
Even though the last few weeks have been bad, the fact of the matter is that he has been the best rookie QB this year. I suspect he’ll only get better, which is extremely exciting. I mean, the guy just saw snow for the first time in his life 4 weeks ago. Playing in the cold New England weather will take some adjusting for the boy from Tuscaloosa.
In conclusion, no one should be worried at all about Mac Jones. Bury the panic buttons for another day. He’s a rookie quarterback that is ahead of schedule compared to the other rookies. Not everyone can be 2020 Justin Herbert. Mac’s doing just fine, and I believe he’ll just continue to get better as time goes on. The future is bright for New England and Mac, we just have to be patient.
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images