Recently retired Drew Brees is bullish on Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
“As I was watching the draft, the minute the Patriots took Mac Jones at No. 15, I said, ‘That’s the steal of the draft. That’s the steal of the draft,’” Brees said Tuesday after Jones was named New England’s starting quarterback.
Brees, who will join NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” as an analyst after a 20-year NFL career, gushed about Jones and his potential.
“That’s probably the guy who is the most ready to play NFL quarterback right now,” he said. “Of all the guys who were taken before him. His level of execution last year at Alabama — and I know we can sit here and argue he has the best players on the field on his side, on both sides of the ball — but in watching the national championship game, that’s where it became very evident to me: This guy’s level of execution, his level of understanding of offensive football, his timing, his rhythm, his ability to not only make the routine throws but to make throws that you’re going to need to make at the next level in order to win games, and to take care of the football the way that he did, I felt like he was the most NFL-ready.”
Last season, Jones earned Alabama’s starting quarterback job after biding his time behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Jones developed a reputation for accuracy and decision-making, throwing for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns and completing 77.4 percent of his passes en route to an undefeated season and national championship last season.
Jones, 22, was the fifth quarterback drafted this year, behind Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars), Zach Wilson (New York Jets), Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers), and Justin Fields (Chicago Bears).
Hours after the selection, Patriots coach Bill Belichick announced that veteran Cam Newton would be the team’s starting quarterback.
But Belichick’s stance changed by the conclusion of the preseason, as Jones took advantage of every opportunity to show his ability to process, execute, and rebound from mistakes. When it came time to finalize the 53-man roster Tuesday, Belichick released Newton because Jones had won the starting job.
Brees is excited about what’s to come.
“He goes to a team who has a culture and a foundation already established — different than the top three quarterbacks taken in the draft who, unfortunately, typically enter situations where there’s a reason those teams were drafting at the very top,” he said.
“I think Mac Jones is going to have the most success out of any rookie quarterback. Not just this year but probably for the next few years.”
Brees is not the only big fan of Belichick’s decision. Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who spent six seasons in New England, also offered a strong stamp of approval.
“I felt like Mac Jones was ready, that he was everything the Patriots wanted as a quarterback,” Harrison said. “When I watch him play, sometimes I sit back and say, ‘What if that zero that’s on his jersey was a two?’ And he would look just like Tom Brady, like a young Tom Brady.
“The fact that they had so much trust in him early to put him in the no-huddle, to give him different things, the offense was never limited with Mac Jones.”
One of the biggest question marks for Jones coming out of college was his athleticism. But Harrison doesn’t envision that to be an issue because of New England’s options at running back. The Patriots have Damien Harris, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, and Brandon Bolden to carry the load.
“We got four or five running backs that can run the football,” Harrison said. “We need somebody that’s going to take care of the football, that’s going to take control of the offense — not only know the offense, but also be able to know the defense, and be able to get the offense into the correct place. I think Mac Jones can do that.”
While Harrison unquestionably thought Jones should be the starter, he still did not expect the Patriots to release Newton. He understands why Belichick chose to do so, though, listing Newton’s vaccination status and years of experience as two potential reasons.
Harrison also said he was disappointed with Belichick when he initially stated at the end of April that Newton would be the team’s quarterback.
“I didn’t believe that,” Harrison said. “I believe everyone should compete, and that’s exactly what [Belichick] promised when I came in in 2003. He puts up a chart and says, ‘Hey, you make the depth chart.’ So, it’s not about giving someone the job. It’s about earning the job.”
Jones ended up doing exactly that — and Harrison is pleased the rookie was rewarded for his efforts.
“In order to give the Patriots the best opportunity to win, this was the best decision,” he said. “If coach Belichick would have made a different decision, I would have been highly disappointed in him.”