Patriots need to wash their hands of Bill Belichick's failed Mac Jones experiment

New England Patriots v New York Giants
New England Patriots v New York Giants / Elsa/GettyImages

Bill Belichick was a lot of things for the New England Patriots. As a head coach, he was everything they needed him to be. His dominance calling the defense, combined with the legendary career of QB Tom Brady, was enough to propel this team to more success over a two-decade stretch than any NFL franchise has ever seen.

Thanks to his unmatched dominance of his team on the field, Belichick is considered by many to be the greatest head coach in NFL history. Unfortunately, his reputation as a general manager is anything but astounding.

Along with the title of head coach, Belichick was made the de facto GM. While nobody is questioning the results on the field, the front office decisions over the years have been head-scratching. Whether it was reaching to fill positions of need in the NFL Draft, dishing out unwarranted contracts, or handing over the offense to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, Belichick made some questionable decisions as a general manager during his tenure with the team.

One of his biggest decisions came in 2021 -- less than three years before his tenure with the team came to an end. Following a disappointing 7-9 season in 2020, New England held the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. With this selection, the Patriots turned in their card for Alabama quarterback, Mac Jones.

New England quickly found out that the departure of a then 42-year-old hurt their team worse than they could have imagined. Jones had impossible shoes to fill, but he was a player that fit Belichick's system and nobody was surprised to see the Patriots snatch him up in the first round.

After a promising rookie season in 2021 that included a 10-7 record and Pro Bowl honors, opposing teams quickly had Jones figured out in Year 2. That's when the young quarterback's immobility and pedestrian arm became very noticeable.

In 2022 and 2023, Jones combined to lead his team to a record of 8-17 when he was in the starting lineup. Last year, the former Alabama product threw for just 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games while chipping in a dismal 5.2 yards per attempt and a 77.0 passer rating. Eventually, Jones lost his job to Bailey Zappe in Week 12 and was not able to earn it back.

Jones is getting ready to enter the final year of his rookie contract, and there won't be a fifth-year option coming his way. Though he's worth little in terms of trade value at this point, the New England Patriots need to cleanse their palate from Bill Belichick's failed Mac Jones experiment.

Traits the Patriots must value in their next quarterback

The Patriots groomed Jerod Mayo to take over as their next head coach, but he is not expected to wear two hats and serve as the team's general manager (which is a good thing). The new GM role could take some time to fill. Meanwhile, some outdated philosophies in the front office must change as the team enters a new era.

For so long, it was all about finding 'system' guys -- players who could execute the quick passing game plan on offense and fit perfectly for what Belichick wanted to do. The future Hall of Fame head coach believed that Mac Jones was an ideal candidate to do just that. Unfortunately, the tools simply weren't good enough to elevate the play of the offense.

Now the Patriots must begin this new chapter by valuing different traits in their next quarterback. Never has it been more important for NFL quarterbacks to possess the ability to escape the pocket and extend the play on a routine basis. We are entering an elite era of NFL pass rushers who can get instantaneous pressure on the QB, and pure pocket passers only work if you have an impeccable offensive line and a brilliant offensive game plan.

This isn't to say that New England's next QB needs to be a dual-threat, but the ability to take off and run with the football certainly doesn't hurt. The proof is in the pudding. Just take a minute to look at some of the top quarterbacks the Patriots will go up against for years in the AFC. The ability to extend the play is a trait that every top QB in today's game possesses.

Another trait that the Patriots need to place a higher emphasis on when searching for their next quarterback is overall arm talent. When you compare players like Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe to the rest of the league, the overall talent gap is remarkable and jumps out on film. While the traits they offer may have worked at the collegiate level, this is AFC East football, and the next QB needs to be able to drive the football through the wind, rain, snow, and cold.

Again, you won't find many Josh Allen-like quarterbacks floating around out there, but that might not be necessary. The Patriots don't need their QB to have a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder, but the arm talent -- both the throw power and velocity -- of the next QB in New England needs to be a significant upgrade from what the Patriots currently have.

With the third overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Patriots won't have a shortage of options, and most draft analysts fully expect them to address the QB position. Now it's time for New England to wash their hands of Bill Belichick's failed Mac Jones experiment and start valuing a different set of traits at quarterback.

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