The 2022 season was rough for the Patriots but probably the worst for second-year quarterback Mac Jones.
There are a lot of factors to consider when dissecting exactly why the season went the way it did, but one of the most misleading assumptions has been regarding the talent that Jones possesses as a quarterback.
Of course, most of us lived through the twenty glorious years that were the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick dynasty, jading many fans into what a typical NFL team and season looks like. But, at the same time, it’s also skewed the mindset of what a good or not good quarterback performance is.
Brady is an anomaly. Quarterbacks like him don’t grow on trees, and we’ll never see another player dominate at the quarterback position in our lifetimes. Removing the expectations had for a Brady on the Patriots season needs to happen and should have happened much sooner.
The rookie performance by Jones in 2021 was one for the record books. Although he was expected to have a second-year jump, Belichick did not set him up for success whatsoever.
Between the drastic changes with the coaching staff coupled with the unnecessary overhaul of the playbook and scheme, Jones had virtually no chance to overcome those challenges.
The 2022 season was obviously disappointing and won’t be remembered fondly. Still, the amount of personal blame for the offensive issues being hurled at Jones isn’t fair, primarily when reflecting on why the Patriots initially drafted him.
Many have discussed all things Mac Jones since the start of the offseason, with some predicting Belichick will make a move for a new quarterback in free agency, but one of the more interesting takes backed by the numbers puts the quarterback’s performance in perspective.
In a recent appearance on NBC Sports Boston’s “Next Pats” podcast, NFL Network’s analytics expert Cynthia Frelund had a lot to say about Jones’ performance and provided an advanced metric proving how good he can be for the team in the near future.
"“I really look at, the best you can do is what you can do from a clean pocket. Because most quarterbacks get pressured on about a third of their dropbacks. Some games it’s more, some games it’s less, but let’s just call it 30 percent as an average.So what are you doing on those other two-thirds where you’re not under pressure? Are you throwing precisely to a lot of the route tree? Because there are some things to always take into consideration. Does your wide receiver run the routes that you’re expecting? What was the play call? Clean pocket, that to me is your ceiling.I think Mac Jones is in a good spot. First of all, he’ll have Bill O’Brien. I think he’s going to create a system that makes a lot of sense. Obviously the familiarity, this Alabama connection, all these things.”"
The podcast host Phil Perry broke down Jones’ 2022 performance further with statistics from PFF. The good thing about all of these stats? It shows that Jones, with a proper offensive coordinator and talented (or even adequate, honestly) offensive line can be exactly the quarterback they need.
"“Mac Jones, about 71 percent of his dropbacks were not pressured. … 246 attempts, he has a completion percentage of 71.7. He averaged 7.3 yards per attempt from a clean pocket. He had 11 touchdowns against just three picks from a clean pocket.It turns out he has the fifth-best grade of any quarterback with at least 100 dropbacks last year when kept clean. So this was a dysfunctional Patriots offense, this was a substandard Patriots offense. If they were even close to just average, you’d probably be looking at a nine or 10-win team. A team that makes it into the postseason. Mac Jones trails only, in terms of ‘kept clean’ grades: Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, and Trevor Lawrence.”"
Fortunately, the Patriots have been making the right moves to get Jones and the team back on track with the hiring of Bill O’Brien and Adrian Klemm, plus the removals of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge from the recent roles.
Next season will undoubtedly be important for New England, especially Jones. Usually, quarterbacks are given a three-year window to prove they can be the guy, and if the offseason changes continue to work in Jones’ favor, he will have to prove that he is the right guy for the job.