Few people know what Mac Jones can do on a football field better than Steve Sarkisian, the man who called the quarterback’s plays for the last two seasons.
The former Alabama offensive coordinator and now Texas head coach appeared on the “Zolak and Bertrand” show on 98.5 The Sports Hub Monday and said he learned a lot about Jones during a wild loss to Auburn in 2019, while he was playing in relief of the injured Tua Tagovailoa.
“He took some real hits,” said Sarkisian. “The ball was coming out. He stood in the pocket. I learned a lot about him in that game and his ability to withstand the adversity that football presents a quarterback in-game. And at that point, it was like, ‘We’ve got something here.’ ”
Now, the longtime offensive guru believes Jones is on his way to a successful start to his career with the Patriots, who selected him with the 15th pick in last week’s NFL Draft.
Sarkisian cited the elite SEC competition Jones faced as a starter last year, plus the playoff games against Notre Dame and Ohio State, as well as his perseverance in waiting his turn behind Jalen Hurts and Tagovailoa as reasons he’ll thrive in Foxborough.
But Sarkisian believes Jones’s greatest attribute is his studious nature toward the game.
“He’s the guy that — you have two or three plays in the game plan you don’t really have a great answer for if they do this one thing, but the numbers tell you they aren’t going to do it,” Sarkisian explained. “You don’t bring it up. The next morning, he walks right in and says, ‘Now what are we going to do if they do X, Y, and Z?’ and you’re like, ‘I hoped you wouldn’t ask me that question.’
“He’s that guy. He’s the guy that studies the game plan and is going to know it inside and out.”
Sarkisian likened Jones’s ability to pick up playbooks to that of former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, whom the Longhorns coach once oversaw at USC. Cassel filled in for Tom Brady in the 2008 season, leading New England to an 11-5 record.
“I’ve been on record saying this: I honestly think he’s the most qualified rookie quarterback to start in Year 1,” Sarkisian said.
But according to NFL insider Adam Schefter, not all teams agree with that assessment.
The San Francisco 49ers, who were said to be eyeing Jones with the No. 3 pick, reportedly chose Trey Lance over Jones because they believed Lance was more NFL-ready from a mental standpoint, Schefter said.
“A lot of people thought, ‘Mac Jones is smart. He’s ready to play right away.’ Actually, the 49ers felt that Trey Lance was ahead of where Mac Jones was and is more ready to play,” Schefter said on the Underdog Fantasy podcast Monday. “The Niners felt that Trey Lance was the smartest quarterback in this draft.”