With the release of Cam Newton on Tuesday, Mac Jones is officially the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback for the 2021 season. Now that the rookie has won the starting job, there’s a new question: Is he ready to be a starter in the NFL? The answer is complicated.
Quarterback is arguably the most important and difficult position in all of sports. The team relies on you to make plays and, at the very least, not screw things up for them. You have to read the defense before the play, understand what is coming, and communicate everything to the rest of the team. Then, if something changes just before or just after the snap of the ball, you have to adjust again or risk looking absolutely foolish. You also have to be the leader on and off the field. A confident player, who makes everyone better, but not too cocky so you alienate fans or other players. It’s a fine line, and not for the faint of heart.
In fact, learning to play quarterback in the NFL reminds me of something: becoming a new parent. All the books, all the videos, all the meetings and all the baby furniture in the world simply cannot prepare you for being a parent. People tell you how hard it is, and they’re right, but you simply cannot understand until it happens to you.
Let’s take a trip back in time to Easter Sunday 2011. My wife, after a very long labor, had just given birth to my oldest daughter. While in the recovery room, one of the nurses simply handed me the baby and walked away. There I was, sitting there staring at the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. This little miracle that I had helped create, and though I was filled with a love that simply cannot be explained, one thing just kept swirling through my mind: I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. The thing was, once she was there, all the books, all the preparation, was out the window. She was a living, breathing person and her actions couldn’t be defined by some book.
We had our ups and downs, but we figured it out the only way you can, simply by being a parent. There were times that I thought I couldn’t do it, that I would never be the dad that she deserved, and there were times that I was so happy that I would walk around with this stupid grin on my face, just because I was the luckiest guy in the world. There were times I thought I’d never sleep again and times that we slept in, snuggling together. There was the time that the poop explosion (if you know, you know) was so bad we had to cut her onesie off of her. There was the time her and I both rocked sunglasses to the beach when she was just a few months old.
There were a million moments, both big and small. Some made us laugh, others made us cry, but they all made us better parents. By the time baby No. 3 arrived five years later, we were seasoned veterans. We were ready for everything he was going to throw at us (good thing, too, because he was the most difficult baby). We had the experience of raising two kids, and we were excited about a third. It’s always a little scary, taking care of a new baby, but we had experience, and no baby book in the world can give you that.
So, is Mac ready to start in the NFL? Nope. The coaches have done their best to prepare him for it, but it ultimately doesn’t matter. When he steps out there Sept. 12, and Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has had two weeks to game-plan against him, it’s going to be unlike anything he’s ever experienced before. He’s going to make mistakes, and there are probably going to be moments where he won’t think he’s good enough. Hopefully, he’ll push through those moments, gaining experience and becoming a better quarterback in the process.
One more thing that I didn’t mention yet: Asking for help is one of the most important things you can do. Of course you have to do things your way, and you need to figure out what that way is, but you need help around you. They say it takes a village, after all. We were lucky to have some amazing people in our lives to help us when we had young ones, and they’re still helping a ton as they grow older. Mac is lucky to have some great people in his corner, leaning on them for support is going to make a ton of difference in his career. You have to do the work, but the help you get can make your life so much easier.
If Mac continues to do what he’s done so far, he’s going to be just fine. He has continuously learned from his mistakes and made himself better every day. Not every day as a quarterback, or a parent, is going to be easy, but no matter what happened yesterday, you need to come to work with a smile on your face ready to go today. The team needs you to be at your best every day. It demands it. He doesn’t know what he’s in for yet, but he’s about to find out, and I think he’s going to do great.