As most of the talk surrounding the Patriots remains focused on Bill Belichick and Mac Jones, the quarterback has taken center stage as the prioritized conversation since his latest benching against the Colts in Week 10.
Most have concluded the third benching would be the end of Jones's career in New England, stating it seems like the straw that broke the camel's back type of moment. The quarterback himself even said this time felt different than the other times he was taken out of the game.
It's a far fall from what once looked like a promising career for Jones in New England and the NFL, completing a successful rookie season that brought the Patriots to the playoffs and earned him a Pro Bowl nod. Most excuse his poor performance during the 2022 season due to the circumstances of working with Joe Judge and Matt Patricia and how that negatively impacted the team entirely, but how did we get to this point?
What happened to Mac Jones?
While appearing on FS1's "The Herd" on Thursday, Julian Edelman shared his thoughts on what he's seen from Jones this season while emphasizing the offense as a whole has contributed significantly to their losing record thus far.
"If you're a guy, you're a guy. And I'm not gonna come out here and just bash on Мас. Yeah, it's been terrible for the whole unit. One play it's the offensive line, one play the receiver slips, one play the receiver drops the ball, there's a bad throw and, and collectively they're not doing well. But this is the National Football League. If you don't win, the quarterback and the head coach get the blame. When you do win, the quarterback and the head coach get the blame."
The premise that the quarterback and head coach are solely blamed for losses yet praised when the team wins continues to ring true for the Patriots in recent years. It has really become a talking point since Tom Brady joined the Buccaneers in 2020 and won a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick, leading some fans to believe the quarterback carried the head coach throughout the dynasty years.
In the current season, Belichick and Jones remain bombarded with criticism and demands to be fired, whether warranted or not. Jones seems to be receiving most of the criticism due to his continuing poor performances.
Although a list of factors likely contributed to his decline over the last two seasons, mainly the three changes at offensive coordinator, Edelman believes that cannot be an excuse anymore.
"This is a production business, ok? And everyone keeps on wanting to say, ‘oh, he's had three offensive coordinators.’ He’s really only had two offensive coordinators. I had Billy O’Brien and Josh McDaniels. That's the same scheme. There's a couple of wrinkles here and there, but you're fundamentally doing the same things."
That doesn't seem like a fair argument to be made in this instance, considering how long ago Bill O'Brien was the OC for Edelman and how differently he's performed his duties as of late. Some believe he is part of the reason the offense looked incohesive, a criticism he received while working under Nick Saban at Alabama.
Unfortunately, he hasn't become the savior of the offense like he was brought in to be after the mess Patricia made.
It's also clear he isn't as similar to Josh McDaniels as some previously thought. Perhaps more has impacted Jones than the constant changes of coaches and underwhelming offensive rosters, but he thrived under the guidance of McDaniels in 2021. He's far from that under O'Brien this year.
So, if those aren't reasons to explain how Jones has declined, what is? Edelman claims it's simple: a loss of confidence.
"It's just been tough for Mac to execute in the high-pressure situations and it comes down to his confidence. He’s lost his confidence, and once you lose your confidence in this league, it's tough. I remember there was a couple times where, you drop a ball or something here or there, and you start thinking about it the next play. Easy play, oh this is going to be easy, and when you’re thinking about things, it’s not allowing you to play fast. It’s not allowing your subconscious to kick in, and instincts play the game for you, and that’s what it’s been right now.
He’s just lost his confidence. It sucks for him, but, you know, that's what's happened."
It seems like the most straightforward answer, yet the complexities of how Jones has lost his confidence is genuinely difficult to untangle. The loss of McDaniels appears to have played the biggest role in it all, and then having to work with unqualified coaches, an uninspiring offensive roster, and being thrown under the bus constantly by your head coach made it all almost unrepairable.
It's an unfortunate situation for all, especially for a team in desperate need of a franchise quarterback and a player that some viewed as one of the top players in his draft class almost three years ago.
At this point, what to do next is an even bigger question to be answered, as Jones doesn't look like the guy for the job anymore.