There has been a ton of discussion about who the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback should be this season, both in Week 1 and moving forward. My opinion had pretty consistently been Cam Newton, but I think there are some compelling arguments as to why the answer should actually be Mac Jones.
Let’s take a look at five of them.
You might want to sit down for this: the Patriots are probably not serious Super Bowl contenders this season.
I know, I know, they spent like crazy in free agency and have a great defense, but they are almost certainly not going to make a deep push. Maybe Josh Allen takes a step back and Tua Tagovailoa struggles and the Kansas City Chiefs have a Super Bowl hangover and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns can’t put it together and the Baltimore Ravens falter in the playoffs again and the Tennessee Titans can’t sustain their success from the last two seasons... you get the idea.
That, however, is a lot of requirements for the Patriots to be a serious contender, and that’s just in the AFC. Knowing that you’re most likely not making a deep push, and that you are building for the future, why not start that rebuild right now instead of waiting a year?
2. Jones looks competent
This seems like a low bar, but it actually isn’t.
Remember how bad Matt Cassel looked in the preseason before going 11-5 in 2008? I was certain that the Patriots were going to cut him, but they actually kept him around. Jimmy Garoppolo almost always seemed to struggle in training camp and preseason, and virtually every young quarterback that has come through has not looked particularly great in practice.
Then, there’s Mac Jones.
The coaching staff keeps throwing things at him, and he keeps dealing with them. The thing that impressed me the most was that in the first padded practice earlier this month, he looked terrible. He had, by far, his worst day of practice, but he followed it up with two fantastic sessions. As an NFL QB, you are going to have to deal with adversity, especially as a rookie, and his response to his poor performance was a great sign.
Jones had another tough practice against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday (though he looked about the same as Cam Newton), so it will be interesting to see how he responds this time around.
3. Growing pains
I think we can all agree that, as of now, Jones is the quarterback of the future for the Patriots. Whenever he ends up taking over for Cam Newton — whether it be late in the year, Week 1, or even the start of next season — he is going to be the starter moving forward. Whenever that run starts, however, there are going to be growing pains.
It is simply impossible for any QB to come in and be perfect. So why wait for next season for those growing pains to come up? Get them out of the way now, and, as noted above, build this team for the future.
The majority of the team’s major free agent signings this spring were for at least the next three seasons, so this team is going to be competitive for a few more seasons, even if it does not get much out of its young guys. If Jones can get some of the mistakes out of the way this year, he can be even better next season, and maybe New England will have a chance to go deep in the playoffs again.
4. Team chemistry
This one is tough, because the team really loves Cam Newton. He’s one of the most respected players in the league, never mind this locker room. But you can also see that Mac Jones is earning the respect of his teammates as well.
Last year, the Miami Dolphins under ex-Patriots assistant coach Brian Flores made the move to Tua Tagovailoa in the middle of the season. It was a disaster: the team didn’t respond well to it, and the rookie quarterback did not play well either. It was a situation that was doomed to fail.
Even if Cam Newton is struggling this year (which the Dolphins’ Ryan Fitzpatrick was not in 2020), it’s still going to be hard for the locker room to get behind benching the starter at some point this season for Mac. If you start the year with him, you finish it out — just like last season.
I do believe that the team sees the potential in Jones, and would be behind him if the coaching staff decided to go to him Week 1. Making the switch mid-season, however, is a different story. Even if Newton plays the same as he did last year, I think it be best to just stick with him.
5. Cam Newton
I talked about him a little already, but the final reason is actually Cam Newton himself. He’s worked his butt of here the last one year plus, and has taken everything the team and media could throw at him with a smile on his face. He deserves a ton of respect, and has put together what is, in my opinion, a borderline Hall of Fame career.
However, he has not been able to significantly distance himself from Mac Jones so far this summer. Even the most steadfast Newton supporter can’t make the case that he has consistently looked better than the rookie since camp started.
The fact is, Newton is likely only playing here one more season. Is it worth it to go to him if he’s not much better — if he’s at all better — than Jones?
There are things that Newton brings to the table that Jones will never be able to do, such as his rushing ability. However, this offense was built around a passer just like Mac Jones, and has had continued success with that model for the last 20 years. Yes, almost all of those were with Tom Brady, but one of them was with Matt Cassel, and he did OK as well.
The point is, if there’s not much of a gap between the two quarterbacks right now, when Jones has about a month of NFL practices under his belt, what will it look like after he has played a full season? I’m not saying that Newton can’t still be a good QB in this league and for this team, but I am saying that, by the end of the season, Jones could be a better one for this team than Newton is right now.
Most of us, myself included, believed that it was Newton’s job to lose, and that Jones would have to beat him out. However, as we watch the youngster continue to be just as good, and sometimes better, than the incumbent in practice, it becomes more and more difficult to deny that Jones might actually have a shot at winning the race.
As can be seen, there are some pretty solid reasons as to why Mac Jones should be the Patriots’ starter as early as Week 1. What would I do if I were Bill Belichick? I have no idea, but that’s why he is the greatest coach of all time, and I’m writing to you here. I do think, however, that if things stay the way they are, that Jones’ slow and steady approach might end up winning the race.