After a week filled with speculation, the New England Patriots and the entire NFL got some clarity at 10:40 pm on Thursday night: Mac Jones would become the team’s quarterback of the future after the Patriots selected him in the first round of the draft.
Jones, who was speculated to potentially come off the board as high as No. 3 to San Francisco, had to spend almost half of the first round in the green room. At No. 15, however, New England stopped his fall by making him the first quarterback drafted in Round 1 by the organization since Drew Bledsoe back in 1993.
Bledsoe eventually became what the Patriots certainly hope Jones will be as well: a bona fide starting quarterback and viable face of the franchise.
For now, however, the 22-year-old is living in the moment. HIs first media conference call shortly after getting drafted reflected this: Jones was on the proverbial Cloud 9, and he summed up his experience with one short sentence.
“It’s a great football team and to be a part of it now is awesome,” he said.
In general, “awesome” seemed to be the word of the day for Jones — unsurprisingly, considering that he had just been drafted. Waiting until the middle of the first round for that to happen did also not seem to change his experience as he pointed out.
“It was awesome and that’s just a great experience to be with my family and to get invited here and to see all the other guys go before me with their families and the celebrations and stuff,” Jones said. “It’s all good, but now you just got to kind of look at it and just enjoy the experience, but it’s time to go to work. And going up there with Goodell was awesome. It’s like video game-type stuff.”
Before taking the stage, however, Jones went through a meticulous pre-draft process that saw him and the Patriots get to know each other quite a bit. Not only did head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels visit his Pro Day at Alabama, Jones and the organization also were in frequent virtual meetings.
How did all that contact with the Patriots go? Apparently, awesome.
“We have been on Zoom a few times and stuff and they did come to my Pro Day and that was awesome,” Jones said. “I know Coach Belichick and Coach Saban have a really good relationship, so they were just kind of talking behind and I just said hello to Coach Belichick and Coach Josh. They were just watching and kind of just looking at everybody. So, it was good for them to be there and hopefully I got to show the type of quarterback I was at that Pro Day and I’m just glad that they took me. It’s going to be awesome.”
Jones’ selection makes it clear what the team’s expectations in him are, but there is no guarantee that he will become the Day 1 starter for the Patriots. The team, after all, has a veteran starter under contract in Cam Newton as well as a former fourth-round draft pick entering his third season in the system in Jarrett Stidham.
The newest member of the group knows that he will have to compete against them, and work his way up the depth chart. Having Newton and Stidham to look up to, however, should help him do just that.
“I’m actually joining a really great quarterback room with Cam Newton, who has played in the NFL for a really long time. He’s earned the respect of his teammates, going into New England, being a captain,” Jones said. “And then you got Jarrett, who I really loved watching at Auburn and kind of use as a role model. Both those guys are role models to me right now and I’m just going to go behind them and learn how they did it.”
The two quarterbacks will not be the only mentors for Jones, though. Another close ally of his will be offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who had served as New England’s quarterbacks coach as well for most of his tenure with the organization.
The veteran coach and the rookie quarterback have gotten to know each other during the pre-draft cycle as well, and Jones is looking forward to working with him.
“What I love to do is just talk football, so to get a chance to do it with Coach McDaniels is just awesome,” Jones said. “He’s a great football mind and hopefully we can just continue to build a relationship that we started kind of through the Zoom process.”
While time will tell whether or not that feeling of awesomeness will turn into actual on-field success, both the Patriots and Jones can be happy about where they are.
Is it going to be awesome? Who knows! For the time being, however, it very much is.
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