New Patriots Regime Can Learn Lesson After Mac Jones Trade

Mac Jones no longer represents the New England Patriots. But how the Patriots learn from their mistake will impact the franchise for years to come.

The reported trade of Jones shouldn’t come as any surprise. The 2021 first-round quarterback was a broken player at the game’s most important position. Given he was benched multiple times and ultimately lost the starting job to Bailey Zappe before Week 13, just about everyone expected the Patriots would move on from Jones this offseason.

The new regime had to do it.

But now the new Patriots regime needs to learn from the old regime’s mistake and make sure it doesn’t happen again. That will be the challenge for Patriots de facto general manager Eliot Wolf and first-year head coach Jerod Mayo, who have taken over after Bill Belichick parted ways with the organization in January.

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While Belichick might have left a lasting legacy for fans in New England, his biggest malpractice should be memorable for those still in the building.

Belichick, who had final say in personnel decisions during Jones three seasons in New England, was largely responsible for the downfall of the No. 15 overall pick in 2021. Belichick’s most egregious error was putting Matt Patricia and Joe Judge in charge of the offense during Jones’ second season. After an impressive rookie campaign with Josh McDaniels calling the plays, Jones took a massive step back under the guidance of Patricia and Judge. It was total dysfunction.

Well, it looks as if Mayo also has made sure his group won’t make the same mistake. Alex Van Pelt, a well-respected offensive mind who is considered to be a quarterback whisper, has been hired to lead the offense in 2024. And Van Pelt had a voice in hiring his own staff, bringing in fresh faces and new perspectives.

Coaching wasn’t the only problem during Jones’ tenure, though. Belichick failed to put (and keep) talent around Jones. Tight end Hunter Henry along with wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne helped Jones succeed as a rookie. But they’re not the game-changing weapons other youthful quarterbacks have benefited from. They’re good complementary pieces.

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And that was before Bourne fell out of favor with Patricia, which in turn hindered Jones. Belichick then allowed Meyers to walk out the door during 2023 free agency and replaced him with injury-prone JuJu Smith-Schuster. It was a $1 million mistake. DeVante Parker, who now is involved in trade rumors, was acquired before the 2022 season and failed to be the wideout Jones needed.

In addition to pass-catchers, New England’s offensive line was among the league’s worst the last two seasons. Despite how clear the need was during the 2023 offseason, Belichick opted not to spend valuable resources on it. It impacted Jones at the start of the 2023 campaign and sent him further into a downward spiral.

Opinions will differ regarding how much Jones factored into his downfall. It’s unfair to put everything on Belichick. And Jones’ emotional outbursts, back-channeling outside the organization and poor attitude didn’t do him any favors.

But given how Jones looked as a rookie with McDaniels calling the shots, it’s difficult not to put the majority of blame on the future Hall of Fame coach. The lack of talent around Jones was a big reason for his on-field mistakes and bad habits — he couldn’t stop throwing off his back foot and feeling pressure that wasn’t there. It caused Jones to lose all confidence.

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The lesson for the new regime: A quarterback’s situation matters — especially in regards to a young quarterback.

Those who draft and develop their franchise quarterback need to put pieces around them to succeed. They need to make sure the franchise signal-caller is getting the right coaching, too. Successful teams do. New England did not.

It seems Wolf understands as much.

“The main thing is trying to do everything we can to support that person once we get them in the building,” Wolf told reporters during the NFL Scouting Combine.

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The Patriots have the opportunity to reset this offseason. New England holds the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and the Patriots reportedly really want to use that selection on a quarterback. With a top three consensus, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels figure to be there when the Patriots are on the clock.

Wolf and Mayo have stressed the characteristics they’re looking for: leadership, toughness, physical skills, competitiveness, etc. But upon identifying who fits them best, or simply selecting the quarterback who falls to them, the new Patriots regime will need to make sure it doesn’t fail their young quarterback like they did the last one.

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