As the Patriots work through the current rut they've got themselves into, the debate of who is to blame continues to be discussed. From Bill Belichick's inability to put together a competent offense to Mac Jones seemingly regressing in his third year to Robert Kraft not stepping in to make the changes needed sooner, there seems to be plenty of blame to go around, no matter who may deserve the most.
The majority of fault has been placed on the quarterback's shoulders this season, primarily due to back-to-back performances that could be labeled embarrassing, to say the least. Although he has made some incredibly poor decisions and has had butter fingers with the football, he's not all to blame for the entire team performing far below expectations.
But that's where things get a little sticky.
Everyone wants to find the person responsible when a team is failing; generally, it is the head coach or the quarterback that is pointed to. Pointing the finger at Belichick and Jones is certainly warranted with how this season started, but it's exceedingly unfair that Jones is being ripped by the media and fans, being named the leading reason for the Patriots' struggles.
Besides his lengthy list of mistakes this year, he's not alone in performing noticeably poorly.
The offensive line is ranked last in the entire league, which has led to Jones having little to no protection from defenders or near a league-low in time to throw the football. It's also essentially eliminated the run game entirely, despite having Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson in the backfield.
The receiving corps is not innocent, either. There's an apparent lack of chemistry between Jones and some pass-catchers on top of their inconsistent abilities to gain separation. All of this combined has created an inhospitable offense for Jones to work with, adding more to the pressure to perform well this season because of how disappointing last year was.
That's not to suggest Jones is innocent in his disastrous contributions this season; that's irrefutable. But how is all of this known, yet he is the sole recipient of blame from everyone discussing the team?
Unfortunately for the quarterback, things have gotten even worse for him, as the latest rumor revealed by The Boston Herald's Andrew Callahan suggests several members of the Patriots personnel, including players, have given up on him already.
Callahan spoke about what he's been hearing from his Patriots' sources on WEEI's “Jones and Mego” on Friday, claiming many within the organization have already moved on from the third-year quarterback and have decided he is not the guy for the job moving forward.
"I spoke with someone just last night after the story came out, and we spoke at length. And that was one person among, I would say a few, but probably many—because you can only speak to so many people—that is firmly out on Mac. Like, they’re over it. They don’t think he’s the answer. He’s not someone helping the team. They know they’re not alone in that.
But two things: They’re not a decision-maker, and they also know that Bailey Zappe is not any better. And so, that’s where the Patriots are, is really stuck between a bad quarterback and a worse one."
Because this is his third season in the NFL and New England, it's unsurprising that some believe that he isn't the quarterback of the future based on what he's done in that time. It's a fair assessment since most rookie players are heavily evaluated and scrutinized in the first few years of their pro careers.
We've seen plenty of teams deem the players they drafted a couple of years prior not what they were hoping for, and they move on from them. It's expected, especially when it's a quarterback.
But given the context of Jones' career thus far, is it really fair to write him off right now? That depends on who you ask.
He may not be the guy, and this is just an early example of why he isn't. Perhaps this is the sign some needed to come to that determination. However, Belichick isn't innocent in the matter and seems to be getting a free pass from most people regarding how much he has hindered Jones' development and confidence, likely to the point of no return.
So, does that mean he should fall victim to his coach's inability to properly put together a competent team that would allow a young quarterback to thrive?
It's complicated to decipher, and everyone has varying opinions on the matter and those involved, especially Jones. Perhaps his time in New England is nearing an end, and he will be successful with a different head coach and a better supporting cast.
If that's the case, anyone who ever supported Jones would be happy to see that for him. But there's always the possibility that he could be exactly what the Patriots need if he had been given a reliable offensive line and at least one game-changing wide receiver, much like several other quarterbacks around the league had the luxury of.
It doesn't seem like we'll ever really know the answer to that, even more so now if there is any truth to what Callahan is hearing from inside Gillette Stadium.
It's an unfortunate situation for all involved, from Jones to the team and the fans; there was a lot of hope when he was drafted in 2021 that the team wouldn't be in such a potentially hostile scenario just three years later.
Maybe a good game against the Raiders will provide some clarity, but to most onlookers, there's not a lot of optimism left in the tank.