Since the Patriots selected him in the 2021 draft, Mac Jones has dealt with more than his fair share of criticism and scrutiny beyond just how he performs as a quarterback. After completing a stand-out rookie season, essentially everything has gone downhill for the young quarterback, prompting even more harsh takes to swarm him halfway through the current season.
Because New England made several changes during the offseason, there was a lot of optimism that the team would be much more successful than the disaster of 2022. Matt Patricia was let go, Joe Judge was moved, and experienced personnel was brought in to hopefully turn the ship around.
Unfortunately, we are yet to see the fruits of that labor as the Patriots find themselves with a 2-6 record midway through the season.
Although many factors have contributed to their struggles and impending losses, much of the blame has been forced upon Jones; some of it is warranted, especially since he has been benched for poor decision-making and turnovers, but some of what is being said is lacking context, which doesn't do Jones any favors either.
It's gotten to the point that fans and media were hoping the quarterback would be traded before the deadline earlier this week and were disappointed when it didn't happen. Thus, they hope Jones will be benched for the rest of the year and cut once the season ends, no matter how unlikely it actually is.
Despite the overwhelming narrative surrounding Jones this season, players continue to come to his defense and blame the Patriots for improperly developing him since he arrived in 2021. The latest player to speak up is Stephon Gilmore, who briefly overlapped with the quarterback before being traded in 2021 and experienced the lackadaisical Patriots a few weeks ago when they were blown out by the Cowboys in Week 4.
On Tuesday, the cornerback appeared on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" and was asked outright if he believes Jones is still capable of being a starting quarterback in today's NFL. Gilmore signed off on Jones' talent, assuring listeners he possesses the talent to be a QB1.
"I definitely do. He's smart. He works hard. He can throw the ball anywhere. He can get the ball out quick when he can. Yes, I think he's a starting quarterback."
At the moment, Bill Belichick and Co. agree with Gilmore's sentiment but have given glimpses that it may not always be the case.
That's something that Gilmore disagrees with. As the conversation about Jones continued, he reiterated a point other players have said over the last two years: he hasn't been put in a situation to succeed since becoming the Patriots quarterback, an argument many believe is a non-factor in Jones' third season.
Maybe hearing it from a respected player like Gilmore makes it seem more credible, no?
"I think it's a team thing. I think the team just hasn't been able to set him up the right way."
Other than publicly sharing his support for Jones, Gilmore shared that he remains in contact with his former quarterback and provides advice on how to deal with the adversity he's been dealt and uplifting sentiments to help keep Jones' spirits high through a barrage of negativity from the local media.
"I talk to Mac a little bit here and there. I just tell him just to keep believing in himself. It’s not going to be easy. Players go through things, go through ups and downs. You’ve got to be able to fight your way out. If you keep fighting and keep working hard, the tables are going to turn. You’ll start winning games, and you’ll start playing great.
I just told him to keep his head down. Because he already works hard, and I think he’s going to continue doing that."
It's good to see that Jones has the support of guys like Gilmore, who can help him behind the scenes as he tries to navigate being a quarterback in New England and the NFL.
Other than having intense expectations placed on him for being a first-round draft pick, stepping into the shoes that Tom Brady once wore was bound to make any quarterback's career more difficult, making it even more critical that Jones surrounds himself with the right people to support and uplift him.
The good thing is that players outside the organization recognize his talent and the unfavorable situation he has been put in, which hits a bit harder than hearing the same words expressed by his current teammates.