Greg Cosell knows it’s a loaded statement, and he hesitates to make it. But there’s really only one way for Cosell, the X’s and O’s guru at NFL Films, to describe what Mac Jones will look like in the Patriots’ offense.
“Take this for what it’s worth — essentially Jones, in the context of what Josh McDaniels does, is Tom Brady,” Cosell said this past week. “In terms of what Mac Jones brings to the table, they’d be very similar.”
Let’s be clear: No one is actually comparing Jones, a rookie who has yet to take a pro snap, with Brady, who will go down as the greatest quarterback and greatest champion in NFL history.
Brady is simply a guide for how the Patriots plan to use Jones, a quarterback with similar physical traits.
“I don’t think anybody is Tom Brady, I’m not comparing [Jones] to him, but he has a similar skill set,” former Jets and Dolphins general manager Mike Tannenbaum said.
Jones, like Brady, is not much of a runner, and he doesn’t have the biggest arm (though Brady’s arm strength is better than he gets credit for). But, at Alabama, Jones was smart, accurate, and productive. Charlie Weis called Jones “similar” to Brady.
“What this kid is, is a quarterback who can drop back and quickly decipher who to throw the ball to,” said Weis, who was Brady’s offensive coordinator from 2000-04. “You’re [drafting Jones] to run the offense that you ran a whole bunch of years and run it at a high level. And he has all that evidence on tape of watching how Tommy did things to go ahead and learn as a student, learn how the best of all time did it.”
Jones, like Brady, will have to rely on his brains and study habits. He’ll need to master defensive alignments and how to adjust the Patriots’ offense, and how to read coverages after the snap to execute “option” routes with his receivers.
“In order for Mac Jones to be a really good player, you’ve got to be really, really good in the presnap phase, and, of course, Brady became phenomenal in the presnap phase,” Cosell said. “Pocket quarterbacks have to win before the snap of the ball. And you have to develop phenomenal functional knowledge of the defense. Based on a play call and based on a defense, you need to know which three or four players are important.”
Weis said Jones is just the type of quarterback the Patriots want.
“They want a smart guy, a gym rat, someone who’s a strong leader, team captain, players gravitate toward him — all the normal comments, especially at the quarterback position,” Weis said. “So right off the bat, [Jones] checked every box for what the Patriots are looking for.
“Then it comes down to, with the Patriots, the two greatest attributes a quarterback can have are quick, good, efficient decision-making, and accuracy. And if you want to take Mac Jones’s two best qualities, they’re 1A and 1B. The guy quickly processes where to go, and then he delivers an accurate ball to wherever he’s throwing it to.”
Weis is convinced that the Patriots made a good pick.
“Wait a few years from now, we’ll come back and revisit. I’m betting that [the Patriots] are going to be happy,” he said.
Quarterback has people talking
A few other Mac Jones notes:
▪ One rival AFC executive said his team considers Jones a “smart, cerebral” player and had him rated as a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. “We really liked him,” the executive said. “He’s going to fit in well in New England.”
▪ Mike Tannenbaum, now with ESPN and The 33rd Team, said the knock on Jones’s arm strength is overblown.
“I was concerned, then I watched him all week in Mobile [at the Senior Bowl], and I think his arm strength is good,” Tannenbaum said. “He had an exceptional week. Daniel Jones and Justin Herbert benefited from really good weeks at the Senior Bowl, and so did Mac Jones.”
▪ Tannenbaum said he thought Mac Jones was going to be drafted higher than 15th and credited the Patriots for not giving up assets to get Jones.
“They showed more patience than I would have,” he said. “I would have gone up just to box out Pittsburgh and Washington. To their credit, their patience was rewarded.”
▪ NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah sees it a little differently. “I started thinking about it, and I’m like, ‘They liked him, they didn’t love him,’ ” Jeremiah said on “The Pat McAfee Show.” “If they loved him, they would have gone up and got him . . . If you love a guy, you’re not going to sit back and go, ‘Welp, hope he gets here.’ ”
▪ Mac Jones should find his transition from Alabama to the Patriots not too difficult, given the similarities between Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. Charlie Weis pointed out that Jones’s offensive coordinator in 2017 was Brian Daboll, who grew up in the Patriots’ system.
“I’m not saying he played in the Patriots’ system, but there’s a lot of familiarity in the way they do business,” Weis said. “When he gets yelled at, he’s going to feel like he’s hearing Saban yelling at him.”
▪ Whenever Jones gets in a game — whether it’s Week 1, Week 10 or 2022 — Greg Cosell of NFL Films expects him to be aided by a veteran offensive line that can take some of the pressure off him. While Tom Brady and most veteran quarterbacks make their own protection calls, Cosell expects veteran center David Andrews to handle that with Jones.
“You don’t want to put the protection on him. That’s so much for his brain to deal with,” Cosell said of Jones. “There are three coverage guys he needs to be aware of. The rest, he can’t be worried with that.”
Positive reviews for these two picks
The rival AFC executive also was a fan of the Patriots’ next two draft picks, Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore (38th overall) and Oklahoma edge rusher Ronnie Perkins (96th).
Barmore slipped into the second round, and there have been unsubstantiated rumors about character issues causing the fall. But the AFC executive said he was “surprised” that Barmore wasn’t taken in the first round and that “we didn’t have any issues with him.”
Instead, the executive thinks that teams shied away from Barmore because defensive tackle isn’t a premium position in today’s NFL, and this year’s DT class was “really bad.”
“I think the quality of players at other positions was better,” the executive said. “I think [the Patriots] made a smart decision to get him. We had him as the top-rated guy, and it was a double home run because of how bad the defensive tackle class is.”
That doesn’t mean Barmore is a total steal for the Patriots, who traded up eight spots to get him. Here is the executive’s scouting report:
“Had him as the best DT in the class, but he had to be more consistent. He had great flashes, makes plays in the run and pass game, but he has to learn how to harness his body a little more. A lot of it is correctable stuff — pad level, technique, he gets out of position. But he flashes strength and balance, has interior pass rush moves. For a big guy, he wins early. But when he doesn’t win initially, he has to work on his countering moves.
“He plays DT the way they like — big and physical on the inside. I think they drafted at worst a first- and second-down player, and if he can develop, maybe a quality interior pass rusher.”
The executive also believed that Perkins, who had 5½ sacks in six games last year, should be a benefit to the Patriots’ pass rush.
“Their players need some refinement, but I thought they had a heck of a draft. I really do,” he said.
How possible are trades for Watson, Rodgers?
The NFL Draft may have increased the chances that Deshaun Watson will be traded from Houston this offseason. But Aaron Rodgers doesn’t seem to have much of a path out of Green Bay this season.
The Texans used their first pick, 67th overall, on a quarterback — Stanford’s Davis Mills. They also have acquired Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Finley this offseason. That’s certainly not a depth chart to brag about, but it’s enough to get the Texans through the 2021 season and prepare to find a new franchise quarterback in 2022.
Even with Watson’s sexual assault lawsuits still looming over him, several teams would likely line up to acquire him, and the Texans should still be able to get a nice haul of draft picks, presumably multiple first-rounders. The Eagles, Broncos, and Dolphins all look well-positioned to trade for Watson should he be made available this offseason. Even if the lawsuits are dropped or Watson quietly settles, it looks like he may need a change-of-scenery trade.
As for Rodgers, the Packers hold all the cards, since he is under contract for three more seasons. If he holds out of training camp, it’s a mandatory fine of $50,000 per day that can’t be waived by the team. If he retires, Rodgers would forgo $65 million in salary, and could potentially have to pay back $23 million in signing bonus, plus a $6.8 million roster bonus he earned in March. The Packers, I’m sure, will be happy to call Rodgers’s bluff.
A trade is possible in a theoretical sense — a post-June 1 trade, especially, would create nearly $23 million in cap space that can be rolled over to next year. If the Packers believe in Jordan Love, this move would make sense. Of course, the fact that the Packers’ CEO, GM, and coach separately flew out to California to try to smooth things over with Rodgers probably says how they feel about Love right now.
The most likely scenario — Rodgers quietly returns, the Packers give him a pay increase for 2021, and if Rodgers gets his way, he gets a full guarantee for 2022. But if it’s just a pay raise for 2021, then the writing is on the wall that Rodgers won’t be a Packer in 2022.
Brady goes on the offensive
Skipping offseason workouts has never really affected Tom Brady. Four times in the last decade he didn’t practice with his coaches — 2011 during the lockout, 2018-19 when he chose not to attend, and 2020 during the pandemic — and Brady reached the Super Bowl in three of those seasons, winning two.
So it’s certainly noteworthy, but not surprising, to see Brady essentially leading the NFL Players Association’s mutiny against offseason workouts. Friday, at the end of a 33-minute Zoom call open to all players, Brady delivered an impassioned six-minute speech that implored players to stick together and boycott offseason workouts.
The NFL and NFLPA have been embroiled in a bitter negotiation over offseason workouts — the league wants four weeks of in-person workouts starting May 24 (only the final week would be mandatory), while the union wants offseason workouts eliminated.
Brady was one of a handful of players to speak on the call, and the only star.
“We shouldn’t have overly competitive drills in May and June,” said Brady, according to a recording of the call obtained by the Globe. “There’s no [expletive] pro baseball player that’s throwing 95 miles per hour in the middle of December.”
While several players have workout bonuses totaling five or six figures, most earn $235 per day during the offseason.
“When it comes to the offseason, one thing I’ve learned in business is what you do for free, someone will never pay you for,” Brady said. “And just because we’ve had offseasons the way we’ve had for 20-plus years doesn’t mean that’s the best thing for the health and well-being of the players. The point is there’s a better way to do it, and they’re not open to that.”
Brady sounded bitter over the way he has been treated by management.
“Everything always is a very one-sided view of what the players’ role in the league is, which is to show up and do their job and make them money,” Brady said. “Show up, we’ll pay you a limited amount, do the work that we tell you to do, play on our schedule, and it doesn’t matter how intense these practices go, you guys are going to do it, because this is what we tell you to do.
“There needs to be a negotiation for everyone — not just what only works for the coaches, or what only works for the owners.”
Brady also casually mentioned at the end of his diatribe, “I’m coming to an end to my career. You guys are the future of what this league is.” Brady, 44 in August, is under contract for two more seasons.
Of course, Brady never mentioned the plight of Broncos tackle Ja’Wuan James, who tore his Achilles’ in a workout away from the team facility and now could lose more than $10 million in salary this year. Many players are upset with union leadership over the boycotts — “They are choosing to die on the wrong hill,” one AFC player told me — and union leaders noticeably didn’t take any questions from players during the call.
Remarkably, 17 of the top 18 picks, and 20 of the top 24, from the 2018 draft got their fifth-year options exercised, or contract extensions. That has to be the fewest number of first-round busts in NFL history. Quarterback Josh Rosen and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch were the only players in the top 20 who didn’t get their options . . . New Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown, one of the largest men in the NFL at 6 feet 8 inches and 380 pounds (on a good day), has a weight clause in his one-year contract. He earns $150,000 for weighing 385 pounds or less on the first day of the offseason program (April 19), $150,000 for 375 pounds on June 1, and $200,000 for 365 pounds on July 15 . . . Congrats to former Patriots practice squad tight end Jake Burt, of Lynnfield and St. John’s Prep, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick in the CFL Draft on Wednesday night. Burt will play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who reached the Grey Cup in 2019 . . . Why were the fifth-year options for Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson ($23.1 million each) higher than those for Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold ($18.8 million each), who were drafted higher? Allen and Jackson have made Pro Bowls, while the other two have not. That’s a new rule in the 2020 CBA . . . A reminder before Wednesday’s NFL schedule release that the Falcons are set to host a non-divisional home game in London, and of their five potential opponents, the Patriots have had the longest drought since playing in London (2012). One team source called the Patriots “long overdue” for another London trip.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.