Forgive me for not piling on this time, but I kind of feel sorry for Mac Jones.
Why the vitriol? Why the exaggeration? Why the demonization of this 25-year-old quarterback?
It’s not as though Mac invented a cryptocurrency scheme and stole everybody’s money. He hasn’t said that New England foliage is overrated, or that he hates Dunkin’ Donuts. He hasn’t complained about his contract, doesn’t appear to be juicing, and never tried to embarrass Dennis Eckersley in front of his teammates.
He hasn’t stomped on the Pat Patriot logo or burned sage around the Gillette Stadium sideline.
He hasn’t even complained about the Green Line. Not once.
Jones seems to be doing the best he can. And it hasn’t been great of late. It’s been pretty terrible. A Boston.com headline Monday read, “Mac Jones’s performance was the worst in Patriots history.” On Bostonglobe.com, the headline was “Mac Jones’s performance was the worst I have seen by a Patriots quarterback.”
Now that is click bait. Even Chad Finn, author of the story, acknowledged that there have been worse Patriot QB games, citing immortals Don Trull in 1967 and Jeff Carlson in 1992. I remember the early days of Jim Plunkett, the final days of Tony Eason, the Hugh Millen years, and the 1981 season-ending Stupor Bowl featuring QB Matt Cavanaugh and the 2-13 Patriots against the 1-14 Colts.
In New York City, piling on a young quarterback is a major sport all by itself. We’ve seen this with just about every Jets QB since Joe Namath. Zach Wilson is Gotham’s latest tabloid target, and it’s been a rough autumn for the former No. 2 overall pick.
Here in New England through the years, we’ve certainly been hard on some of our disappointing athletes, but usually we like the guys who are trying. I like to think we reserve the big hammer for guys who don’t run out ground balls, rip their teammates, insult fans, or fail to honor their contract.
I’m sure Carl Crawford would argue otherwise, but I’ve found fans around here to be generally supportive if they think a player is giving us his best. I like to believe that folks were actually pulling for Crawford to succeed in 2011 and that he turned on the region before the region turned on him.
Josh Beckett? That was another story. Same with Kyrie Irving. But nobody booed Bobby Dalbec when he struck out a million times during the 2022 season. And Crawford wasn’t booed either. That stuff was largely reserved for a situation like Roger Clemens complaining about carrying his own luggage back in the late 1980s.
Jones hasn’t heard too much negativity from Gillette fans. Not yet. It was worse for him at home last year when Zappe Magic was all the rage and fans chanted “Zapp-eee, Zapp-eee,” when Mac struggled at the start of a 33-14 Monday night home loss to the Bears. Bill Belichick inserted Bailey Zappe after three futile series, then claimed the plan all along was to play both guys.
That’s the kind of coaching malpractice that has turned Jones into a puddle in his third pro season after being the 15th overall pick of the 2021 draft. The nadir came Sunday when Jones — clearly afraid to throw the ball in the red zone after getting taken to the woodshed by offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien — missed a wide-open Mike Gesicki in the end zone with a short, soft toss that landed in the arms of Colts defensive back Julian Blackmon.
You know the rest. Belichick benched Jones for the closing drive with less than two minutes remaining in a 10-6 game. It was utter humiliation for the third-year QB, who was on a star track just two seasons ago. Jones looked as if he’d been crying when he came to the postgame podium and acknowledged, “It was a terrible throw … At the end of the day, I have to play better. To make people believe, you’ve got to do better.”
Jones’s media sessions are dissected and analyzed more thoroughly than anything that spills out of the Oval Office. The rich kid who had it easy at Alabama defends his dubious receivers, rarely makes excuses, and refuses to throw his teammates under the bus.
Still, some of us detect critical nuance when Mac is asked about offensive game plans and in-game strategies. When he was asked why the Patriots didn’t go for the Hail Mary heave at the end of the first half Sunday, he answered, “No clue.”
To some of us, that sounded like a not-so-subtle critique of his coaches. There are armchair sports psychologists who believe Belichick loathes Mac more than Eric Mangini and/or the Jets. Some of this is rooted in speculation that Mac is a Bob Kraft favorite.
Bill spoke Tuesday (I think he actually acknowledged that it was, in fact, Tuesday), but wouldn’t say who’ll start at quarterback for New England’s next game, which is not until a week from Sunday against the Giants.
“I don’t know how much more embarrassing this gets,” Patriots legend and family member Tedy Bruschi said on ESPN.
The Patriots-Giants game will be played at the Meadowlands. Good. It’ll be better for Mac and the Pats to be away from the noise and nonsense around Foxborough.