At this point in the Patriots' 2023 season, it's evident to everyone that the team is going nowhere, and their season is all but officially over. Despite playing fairly well to start the year, it's been a continued downhill spiral in the following weeks, and it looks like things are just getting worse with each passing day.
On top of the failures of the team itself, the barrage of rumors and debate surrounding Bill Belichick and Mac Jones appear to have no end, as both remain the most discussed topic whenever the team is mentioned. It's gotten increasingly worse for Jones specifically since he has been benched four times through 11 games and appears on track to be sidelined for the Patriots' upcoming matchup against the Chargers.
But the discourse around Jones and his future with not just the Patriots but in the NFL has taken a wild turn recently, with analysts and reporters inserting their own beliefs about the quarterback without much factual context to certify their claims.
The media have a job to do, and nobody is knocking them for that. However, when it gets to the point of making personal digs at a player simply because you feel they aren't a good player or you want the team to move on from them, it is never appropriate, no matter who is being talked about or whatever the situation may be.
That's unfortunately the depths that former Patriots staffer Mike Lombardi has taken his opinion this week, as he brought Jones into a conversation that had nothing to do with the quarterback in the first place.
During a recent episode of his "The GM Shuffle" podcast, Lombardi was asked about the Broncos' ability to turn things around under Sean Payton this season, especially in regards to getting the team on board with Russell Wilson, who had a bumpy first season in 2022. Within that conversation, Lombardi brought up Jones, completely blasting him for his lack of "likability," and suggested that his teammates don't like or want to play for him.
"[Russell] Wilson has become likable to his team. And I don’t think we talk about that enough in terms of quarterback evaluation — does the team like the quarterback? I’ll give you the perfect example yesterday in the Meadowlands. Tommy DeVito against Mac Jones, right? … They’re both not NFL-caliber quarterbacks, by no means. But the players on the Giants like DeVito. They really do. You can see they want to play for him. When he makes a mistake or takes a sack, they want to play for him. And he wants to play for them."
This was just the start of a long-winded rant from the former longtime GM, who continued to share his apparent disdain for Jones.
He went on to suggest he has had a similar path with his team as Carson Wentz, a talented quarterback who allegedly never connected with his teammates, hence why his career suffered a domino effect after leaving the Eagles.
"When Mac does it, going back to his cheap shots in this league and his career? All the things, you can see there’s a disdain for him. Like you can see — there’s no sense of energy, there’s no, ‘Hey, he’s my guy, I love this guy.’ No, no. … He blames everybody through his body language, through his mechanics.
And I think — go to Carson Wentz. What killed Carson Wentz? Was it his arm strength? No. Was it his athleticism? No. It was that he couldn’t connect to his teammates. They hated him. What did [Colts owner] Jim Irsay say? Couldn’t wait to get him out of the building."
Besides the wild connection he attempted to make between two very different quarterbacks and situations, Lombardi's implication that Jones has absolutely no support in the locker room and his teammates, in fact, don't even like him is an absurd accusation to make.
To make Lombardi's take even worse, Jones has had teammates speak highly of him throughout the season, even laughing off rumors that have been thrown out there in recent weeks.
But that didn't stop him from attempting to further his tirade, suggesting what he saw from Tommy DeVito in the Giants matchup with the Patriots in Week 12 indicates his teammates are more supportive than those of Jones.
"I mean, Mac Jones is the same way. Bailey Zappe has not endeared — if Bailey Zappe had more Tommy DeVito-like qualities in terms of leadership and embracing it? They might embrace him, but they’re void of that. … Zach Wilson. Nobody on the team wants to hang out with Zach Wilson. Nobody.
Nobody wants to hang out with Mac Jones. Nobody wants to hang out with him. You can see it on these teams. So when you see a bad quarterback like DeVito — they’ll hang out with him. They’ll go over to his house and have chicken parm. Like, they like him. He’s no good — they like him, though. And I think that’s where we lose sight of it a little bit when we’re evaluating these quarterbacks. Because what is the likability of the player?"
Considering DeVito has only been New York's starter for four games, splitting the wins to go 2-2, it's not fair to compare their attitude toward him to the Patriots and Jones.
It's also just unprofessional to make such outlandish remarks based on nothing, especially since Jones has been dealing with an overload of negativity this season, some of which was (of course) warranted. But is there really a need to pile on the kid simply because you can?
It looks like his time as the New England quarterback may be nearing its end, and there has been chatter about the decline of his confidence and feeling down. Although any player at any time can feel that way, and the media isn't required to necessarily consider that when reporting on them, the amount of vitriol Jones has been dealing with seems like a good enough reason not to add more to it.
It's hard enough to feel defeated by your shortcomings and have to stand in front of your coaches and teammates each week to explain yourself. It becomes even worse having to answer to the media about it and then have comments like Lombardi's to top it off.