Most of the conversation this offseason, even more, Bill Belichick exited the Patriots, and Jerod Mayo was promoted in his place, has surrounded the dire need of finding a quarterback. Because they have the third overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, the assumption has been that is where Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe will be officially replaced for the 2024 season.
NFL draft experts have been mock-drafting the Patriots to take a quarterback at that spot since they were essentially guaranteed a top-3 pick, and Mayo even hinted at his plans to go that direction in the draft just last week.
But what if that's not the case?
Given how poorly Jones has performed over the last two seasons, it's hard to believe he would be given another chance, especially after he was benched by Bill Belichick last year. At the same time, Zappe is clearly not the answer, either, forcing the Patriots to figure out the best route to find a quarterback.
There has been some speculation about signing a veteran to be more of a bridge quarterback or even a mentor to a rookie. But there is also some chatter about Mayo sticking with Jones for at least the final year of his contract, boosting the offensive weapons around him to give him a better chance at success and worrying about his successor until next year.
It was an unthinkable scenario when Belichick was still running things, as plenty of reports have revealed in recent days that the head coach was done with the quarterback. But now that Mayo is in charge, Jones may be given a third chance to prove he can be a competent quarterback.
The Mac Jones experience in Foxboro may not be over yet
The rumor about Jones taking over as the QB1 again stems from Mayo's introductory press conference, as he made sure to be present to watch the event and congratulate his new head coach.
He was one of just five Patriots players in attendance, which many took note of for various reasons.
It garnered various reactions from fans and media members despite Jones' seemingly innocent decision to be there. But what caught the most attention was Jones' attire, which appeared to be what he would wear to workout in.
Reporters later revealed he had continued to work out at the facility during the offseason, hence the outfit, and made sure to swing by to see the press conference and probably make a good impression. And apparently, it worked.
Mayo spoke about Jones' presence when talking to ESPN after his introduction, complimenting the quarterback for his dedication to improving and his mentality to move on from what happened during the 2023 season.
"Mac Jones was in there working out. That attitude, that mentality of changing the page, is something that I hold high."
His words are certainly a far cry from how Belichick spoke about Jones over the past year when he wouldn't even mention him by name at some point. Mayo seems to have a different impression of him, and based on his previous comments, he's open to allowing Jones to earn his spot back if his performance proves he's worthy.
That was mentioned when discussing how he hopes to move ahead with the roster, emphasizing that he is still in the "evaluation stage" for every position on the team, including Jones and Zappe.
"Those guys have things that they can do, and it's about improving and developing."
Based on this reaction and his unwillingness to completely shut down the idea of either quarterback earning the starting job, it seems like a good sign for Jones. Mayo may not have specifically named him or outright said he would be given another chance.
However, knowing how vastly different the response would have been if Belichick had been asked the question, it seems fair to assume Mayo feels a bit differently about the quarterback and the situation.
Jerod Mayo's experience as a player and coach will ultimately benefit a guy like Mac Jones right now
Among the many intriguing things Mayo has said over the last two weeks provides more optimism for Jones, too. He stressed the importance of properly developing a player and establishing a human-to-human relationship with them that goes beyond just being a coach and a player.
That's something that appeared to be lacking for Jones when Belichick was the head coach, at least over the past two years.
"You have to develop the person before they'll go out there and run through a brick wall for you. Players have to know that I care about you as a man, first and foremost," Mayo said.
On top of that, Mayo described the type of coaches he wants on his staff, highlighting a specific mindset he wants them to have, especially when engaging with the players on the team.
"We check in all the time. Mental health is a real thing. If a guy comes in and obviously has something off the field, we try to lay off a little bit. I think having that flexibility, knowing what your group is going through, how they feel that day, and really adjusting your coaching style based on that, I want coaches who kind of subscribe to that philosophy."
This is a positive sign for the team overall, but even more so for Jones, who has appeared to be a broken player for most of 2023.
How Mayo handles the quarterback situation won't be clear until free agency and the draft at the end of April, as the roster moves and who they select in the draft will surely provide those answers. But in Jones' case, he should feel his job is a bit safer now, or at least for the time being.