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Lane: Mac Jones has been better than you realize

When compared with another players’ first few games, it’s easy to see his potential

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Mac Jones has started three games in his professional career, and there are already people questioning whether or not the New England Patriots made the right decision about who to start. I’m here to tell you that his performance has been much better than people would like you to believe.

I want to play a game, let’s pretend that Damien Harris didn’t fumble the ball at the nine-yard line, down one point, with 3:30 left in the first game of the season. If Harris holds onto the ball, and assuming the Patriots don’t allow a score from the Miami Dolphins, then Jones has a come-from-behind victory in his first career start. Mac was 9-of-11 passing in the fourth quarter, and led two drives that should’ve ended in at least field goals. Not bad for a rookie in his first start. If New England scores on that drive and wins the Miami game, then the narrative on pick No. 15 is very different.

You’ve probably seen the comparisons to Cam Newton from last year by now, and their numbers are close to the same for the first three games, which has some people saying that Cam would have been the better option for the Patriots this season. I’m not concerned with what Cam did, partly because Mac better far surpass him down the stretch, but also because he was a 10-year veteran going into last season. I instead would like to take a look at a player’s stats for his first three NFL games. That player would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady.

  • Brady through three games: 58-of-101, 57.4 percent, 618 passing yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 botched snap returned for TD
  • Jones through three games: 81-of-120, 67.5 percent, 737 passing yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs

So Mac has three interceptions, with only one of those really being on him, and he has more passing yards as well as a better completion percentage. Some of those things can be attributed to the game being different than it was back in 2001, but the comparison, I think, still makes sense. The point I’m trying to make is very simple: Let’s be patient with Mac Jones. His success in this league is going to be dependent on how hard he is going to work to become better. Brady is arguably the hardest-working QB in NFL history. He made himself the best ever, and it’s up to Mac to make himself great as well. The tools are there, the smarts are there, but time is needed to see how he improves.

Now Mac gets a chance to go head-to-head with the guy that he is ultimately replacing. The guy who turned the Patriots franchise into a perennial powerhouse. The guy who he will be compared to his whole career, not just because he replaced him, but also because his play style is similar. Those are big shoes to fill, and a whole lot of pressure in his fourth career start, but I think he’s going to respond well to it. Another thing Jones has in common with Brady is his ability to respond to adversity by getting better, whether it was a bad practice or a bad throw. After a subpar game last week, the Patriots are going to need him to be much better if they hope to win Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

How good can Mac Jones be? Only time will tell, but anyone who tells you that he hasn’t been told so far simply hasn’t been watching. No one should be asking or expecting him to be the next Brady, that simply isn’t fair, but the start of their playing careers look pretty similar. How much better can he get? How does he play in the biggest moments of the game? Those questions remain. The answers are going to tell us how good of a pro he will be.

Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast. Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats.