An Open Letter to Mac Jones

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Have you noticed that no one ever tries to draft the next Tom Brady?

Why do you think that is?

I have a theory: people in and around the NFL—perhaps even Brady himself—don’t actually know why he’s been successful in New England. Something about "intangibles" is the most you’ll get out of anybody. If you ask for specifics, they’ll throw a few other useless platitudes at you: "leadership," "work ethic," "drive," "competitiveness." (It used to be they’d mention Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft, but now that he’s won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, that’s sort of dried up.)

The truth is, most NFL QBs have those intangible traits. (The ones that don’t like Johnny Manziel, JaMarcus Russell, and Josh Rosen wash out of the league almost immediately.) So it really can’t be those traits. Having those traits is table stakes, but it won't make you the GOAT.

What makes an NFL-average, Kirk Cousins-esque QB like Tom Brady into TB12, the undisputed GOAT with 10 Super Bowl appearances and 7 wins? Two words: Situational Football.

How to Lose

It’s now Week 7, and you (yes: you, Mac Jones) have your team at 2 wins and 4 losses. Tom Brady, were he the QB of this team, would currently be at 5-1—even if he had to play his doppelgänger over on the Bucs in Week 4. (Brady would also have lost the Saints game because the Patriots game planning was terrible on both sides of the ball, and while he can overcome a lot, even the GOAT can’t overcome bad coaching. No one can, not consistently anyway.)

Would Brady have been more prepared than you each game? No.
Would Brady have thrown the ball better than you each game? No.
Would Brady have called protections better than you each game? Not really, no.
Would Brady have read the defenses better than you each game? Not really, no.
Would Brady have "wanted to win" more than you each game? LOL, no.


Would Brady have shown better in-game "leadership" in gotta-have-it situations? Hell, yes!
Would Brady have gotten at least a field goal to close out the first half of the Dallas game? Almost certainly.
Would Brady have (easily) closed out the Bucs game and the Cowboys game with long drives ending in a field goal? Heh, with his eyes closed.
How about the Miami game, would he have easily closed that one out too, avoiding the Harris fumble? Also, yes.

Those are the three wins Brady would have had that you don’t: Miami, Tampa Bay, and Dallas.

Let’s talk about what you need to do to start getting those wins here in New England. It’s 100% up to you—nothing else needs to change, not the players, not the coaching, not the OL, not (mostly) the play calling. Just you.

I’ll repeat: the harsh truth is that this team is 2-4 instead of 5-1 because of you, and only you.

  • It’s not because Damien Harris fumbled in the Miami game.
  • It’s not because Nick Folk missed a 56 yard field goal in the Tampa Bay game.
  • It’s not because Kendrick Bourne ran the wrong route in the Dallas game, causing a pick six; or because Nelson Algholor dropped a game winning ball on the final 4th quarter drive; or because Algholor (again) didn’t come back to the ball on a back shoulder fade to close the game out in OT.

Those things all happened because of you. Because of Mac Jones. Those things don’t happen to Tom Brady because Tom Brady wouldn’t have put his team in a position for them to happen in the first place. (This is the "situational football" thing Bill has been endlessly repeating since you arrived in New England.)

It’s not bad luck, or even bad execution, it’s 100% bad decisions on your part. It’s stuff you can fix. It’s a result of mistakes you made that Tom Brady wouldn’t. He knew better, he knew how to win.

Let’s talk about how you can fix things going forward, because fixing these things is what it will take for you to start winning games here in New England.

How to Win

Tom Brady was coached by the greatest head coach of all time in Bill Belichick. He’s still the greatest. What Tom learned—what you need to learn—is that it’s far easier to lose a game than it is to win one. Have you noticed how it takes only 2-3 "bad" plays to lose games here in New England? Scary, right? Frustrating? Are you sick of losing yet?

When you were at Alabama, your OC Steve Sarkisian was a better play caller than you. A better play designer. Partly, that’s experience and partly it’s because you were a college student, not a grown-ass adult. Because you were in school, he was teaching you why the plays were being called. That was helpful, right?

Guess who’s calling plays in Tampa Bay, and why they won a Super Bowl last year? It’s Tom F’n Brady. His "OC" (LOL) is a glorified clipboard holder. It’s nice to have a second set of eyes on what’s going on, but if there’s EVER a conflict between a play that Brady wants to run and Byron Leftwich wants to run—especially in a critical, gotta-have-it situation—it’s Tom Brady calling the shot every time. Observe his game winning drive against Dallas back in Week 1:

See that? Tom Brady told Leftwich "No F’ing Way." Instantly, a new play arrived (while Leftwich sulked on the sideline—poor guy). Brady promptly then made the game winning throw to Chris Godwin (his most reliable receiver—more on this later). Tom Brady always does the right thing in gotta-have-it situations. That’s in part how you’ll start winning games here in New England, by learning how to do that.

Lesson 1: You can and should tell Josh McDaniels "no", both during the game and on the side line between drives. Trust me, he’ll send another play over, just like Leftwich did, or call plays more aggressively, or lobby Bill to run the two-minute drill to close out the half against Dallas and get a field goal. If the rules say to check to a run or a screen, but you don’t trust the play call, do what Brady did: throw it anyway. It’s your job to win games—not blindly follow the rules.

Trust me, Josh doesn’t want you running a play you’re not confident in, so use that to your advantage to win games. Trust yourself about what plays to call in critical situations, not the coaches. Remember that 3rd down TD in the National Championship game? You can (and should) do that in New England, too. You should be doing that now, it’s the only way you’re going to win games here.

The simple fact is that you’ll never be great if you don’t start doing this. You have a much better handle on your teammates than the coaching staff does in those moments, but most importantly, it’s your job. Your teammates expect you to handle gotta-have-it situations as well as Tom Brady did, so start doing it. It’s your job to win these games. Right now, you’re not doing your job.

Now let’s talk about when you should trust yourself, and really about trust in general. You’ll have to get much better at this in order to win games here in New England. Trust is most important in gotta-have-it situations (or what Belichick boringly calls "situational football"). You suck at this right now—sorry for the blunt talk, but it’s true.

First, here’s a complete list of coaches you can trust 100% of the time:
  1. Bill Belichick
Literally everyone else in the Patriots organization is expendable, including—even especially—Josh McDaniels. He’s literally just a Byron Leftwich clone in New England clothing. Skilled, of course, but you won't start winning games by putting your future in his hands. You have to take ultimate responsibility for winning, just like Belichick does.

On the offense, you need to learn—quickly—who you can rely on in these crucial, gotta-have-it situations. Here’s the complete list for 2021 as of Week 7:
  1. Hunter Henry (all short (less than 10 yards), medium (10-20 yards), and long (over 20 yards) throws are okay to him, including TDs)
  2. Jacobi Meyers (no TDs, short and medium throws only, nothing over 20 yards when stress is high—he doesn’t remain focused)
  3. [with caveats] Damien Harris can run the ball
Harris has caveats because you will need to remind him—in the huddle—to take what he’s given and not fumble the ball. Under no circumstances would Tom Brady not have had that talk with Harris on that final drive in Miami when he fumbled. You didn’t have that talk—and so he fumbled. That’s on you—if you want to win games. That’s how you win in New England, you (like Belichick) have to take personal responsibility for winning.

Unfortunately (because your OL sucks in 2021), you really can’t rely on the run in gotta-have-it situations (though see below for a future solution), and you definitely can’t rely on Bolden to run it—ever. Not ever, not even when they have eight DBs on the field and you’ve got three TEs, all five starting OL, and a fullback. If you need yardage in a gotta-have-it situation, you cannot, under any circumstances, give or throw the ball to Brandon Bolden. He’s a special teamer filling in (poorly) for James White. Burn this into your mind.

(As an aside, on 3rd and 1, lobby Josh (and Bill, on Tuesday) to do a QB sneak. You’re good at it.)

But the broader point is: New England isn’t Alabama, not all of your teammates are actually good players (relatively speaking). Some are just okay, and some, relatively-speaking are actually bad. The NFL has a salary cap and a lot of injuries, so you end up with many players on the field who really can’t be relied on in crucial, gotta-have-it situations. Tom Brady understood this, and—if you want to win games in New England—it’s absolutely critical that you do too. You simply cannot trust all of your teammates in those crucial, gotta-have-it situations.

The reason Tom Brady would win the games you’re currently losing is because in gotta-have-it situations, he took responsibility for both the play calls AND the players he’s throwing to (or handling the ball off to). He didn't "trust his coaches", or his teammates generally, he trusted himself and the specific players who had earned that trust (i.e. in practice, and in games). It was his job to win the F’ing game. Now it’s yours. Welcome to New England football.

Lesson 2: Take responsibility for both the play calls and the players in gotta-have-it situations. Take responsibility for winning.

Learn and apply these two lessons and you’ll be well on your way to winning games here in New England. It’s what the GOAT would do.

Bonus: What you should do with Rhamondre Stevenson

(You can still win games if you don’t do this, but I think you’ll be much, much happier if you do.)

Rhamondre Stevenson can be a Najee Harris, Corey Dillon, or (especially) an Alvin Kamara-like player for you here in New England—if you put in the effort to develop him. Belichick will never (unless, like Dillon, it falls into his lap) acquire a player like this at full market value for you, either in the draft or free agency. Luckily, you already have one-in-the-making on your roster in Stevenson. The ceiling on him is sky-high.

Here’s how to develop Stevenson into a three-down stud at RB that, for years, people will say is the reason you’re winning so many damn games—or even Super Bowls.

First, move his locker next to yours.
Second, eat lunch with him every day and when appropriate, dinners.

Why? You need to develop a friendship/bond for this to work. You should always know what he’s going to do on a play, and vice versa. That takes time. If other players ask why, tell them he’s earned it.

Third, go (separately, without Stevenson) to Ivan Fears, Troy Brown, Josh McDaniels, and Bill Belichick and tell them your personal goal for Stevenson.

Here’s that goal: you (personally) want to help develop Stevenson into a three-down, pass-catching, dominant running back. We’re talking "2000 yards from scrimmage" dominant. OPOY dominant. HOF-caliber dominant. That’s your goal for Stevenson.

Here’s how to achieve that goal, once you’re on your way to becoming best buddies:

First, you will have to take it upon yourself to teach him blitz pickup duties (including protection rules), because he’s currently terrible at it. This will require extra work during the day, at practice, during meals, after practice, and importantly, in the huddle in actual games. You’ll have to remind him of his cues nearly every snap for probably 20 games before you can skip it. (Do this if you want to keep him on the field, Belichick will pull him instantly if he fails at this.)

I strongly suspect he will have a lot of difficulty with this, so you’ll need to summon whatever ingenuity you have to get this working. (The sooner the better.)

Second, you will have to throw to him a lot after hours and in the off season, and tell him what he’s doing wrong. Ask Henry and Meyers to work with him on route running. He’s going to be great at it eventually—Kamara-level great. Encourage him to use the jugs machine as much as he can. Be that extra energy he’ll need to put in the hours. Give him tons of positive encouragement and feedback. Your goal is to get him on the "trust" list for those gotta-have-it plays as quickly as possible.

Third, scour the playbook for Kamara-like plays already in our offense. (There should be a lot because we’ve had a ton of really good 3rd down backs.) Lobby Bill and Josh to get these added on game day, and then work with Stevenson and the position coaches (Brown, Fears) so that Stevenson can learn them. Go out of your way to find opportunities for him to make plays.

Fourth, talk about the playbook with him at every opportunity in practice and meetings, as it pertains to him. Teach him not just the plays, but the concepts behind the plays. Take him under your wing. The better he is, the better you’ll be, and the more you’ll win together. Every aspect of your game as a QB will be improved by having a reliable stud in the backfield with you.

If you develop Stevenson, your current 3rd down conversion problems will magically go away. He’s also the key to closing out games, because a dominant rushing attack is by far the easiest, safest way to make that happen.

And don’t despair when they knock your QB skills once Stevenson is playing lights out and appears to be carrying the team. Brady suffered the same bullshit for almost 15 years. Just smile and win.

Good luck!

P.s. Have you considered All I Do Is Win as your entrance song? It’s not quite appropriate yet, but if you take my advice, it could be. :-)

P.p.s. I’d watch as much film on the 2011 Patriots as you can, and work with your TEs to make that happen here in 2021. Push Josh and Bill for it,—you can handle the on-the-field play calling duties and it’ll really help you win games. (That offense is Bill O’Brien’s creation, so Josh won’t be as comfortable with it. Do it anyway.)

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