The New England Patriots are off to an interesting start in the 2023-2024 NFL season. With two historic losses, close games against the Eagles and Raiders, and a thrilling win against the Bills, it has been a rollercoaster ride for Patriots fans used to seeing wins. Amid the struggle, fans and analysts alike have questioned some choices on the team. The biggest debate has been over starting quarterback Mac Jones, who has faced the brunt of the criticism as the face of the team. We will debate his validity below.
The New England Patriots have had a challenging start to their season. This is a fact. A 2-5 record puts them at the bottom of the barrel and things aren’t looking good for the playoff hopes. However, those two numbers aren’t entirely reflective of what happened. Yes, Bill Belichick had his worst two defeats since anyone can remember, and, yes, they barely beat the Jets. But they also came close to a victory against the formidable Eagles and came back to triumph over the Bills. Mac Jones may be at fault for some of the Pats’ struggles, but he also has undoubtedly made some good plays, and his support systems around him haven’t stepped up.
A lot of people forget that Mac Jones played for Alabama, and Nick Saban doesn’t let just anyone play for his QB position. While this season hasn’t been the prettiest, two seasons ago, Jones led the Patriots to the playoffs, a major achievement following Tom Brady’s departure. Mac does have problems, including his mobility in the pocket and split-second decisions. However, he still has what it takes to be a successful quarterback. He’s proved himself with the deep ball throws, tossing it up to Davante Parker in the Raiders game, who unfortunately dropped it. Against the Bills, he led the Pats on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter alone, going 11 of 13 for 127 yards. He also has acknowledged the areas in which he needs to improve and strives to grow in, stating “I need to do a better job” after their loss to the Saints.
Outside of what Mac can control, the tools and resources around him are subpar, limiting his ability to make big plays. The most flagrant problem this season has been the offensive line. Ranked 31st in the league by FTN, they have been plagued by injuries and inexperience. The constant swapping of linemen and lack of consistency means the unit can’t make any progress toward becoming successful. They are near the top of the league in sacks and pressures allowed, not making Mac Jones’s life any easier. Also, the Patriots have a below-average receiving core, ranked 29th in the league by Pro Football Focus. In the offseason, they traded Jakobi Meyers to the Raiders and passed over an opportunity to get Deandre Hopkins. Jones’s current weapons can’t get open and thus force him to make riskier throws.
The faults of Mac Jones are exasperated by the lackluster offense. If he is given better opportunities to make plays, he can prove himself to be the quarterback which he has displayed in some pivotal moments this year.
With the 2-5 start to the season, something in the Patriots organization needs to change. After painfully watching the first seven games of the season, there is a reason for the worst start the Patriots have had in over twenty years: Mac Jones.
The former fifteenth-overall pick has had a bizarre career so far. After an excellent rookie season, an almost surefire rookie of the year campaign, the title was taken by one of the greatest rookie wide receiver seasons of all time by Ja’Marr Chase. After this season, most Patriots fans, myself included, thought we found another guy. The dynasty had been reignited, and another fifteen years of success was almost a given. He was composed in the pocket, top five in accuracy, and had a level of knowledge for the game similar to a player in his tenth season. However, in his second season, he took a significant step back, looking nothing like his rookie season.
Many people blamed this on his offensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, a former defensive coordinator. But, this offseason, the Patriots chose a new coordinator, Bill O’Brian, the Texans failed head coach but an incredible offensive coordinator. So, with a revamped offense, the best tight-end duo in the league in Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki, there was nothing in the way to hold Mac Jones back from another great season.
To say this has not been the case is an understatement. He has thrown for more than 250+ passing yards in only two games this season, coupled with seven interceptions for only seven touchdowns; he has been a bottom-five quarterback in the league. For those who say that it is not only Mac’s fault, that is true to a certain extent. Yes, the Patriots do not have a great receiving core, but in games where Mac did not have a turnover, the Patriots are 2-0, while in those he had a turnover, 0-5.
Mac’s strengths are ball security, accuracy, and confidence in his play. So far, he has nine turnovers, a lackluster sixty-six percent accuracy, and has been benched twice in the fourth quarter. Outside of that, he is an immobile check-down artist with a weak arm, the antithesis of the modern-age quarterback. While maybe twenty years ago, Mac Jones would have been a prototypical quarterback and had a great career, that is not the style of play that has evolved in the last ten years. Looking at any top ten teams in the league, they all have mobile quarterbacks who can sling it downfield with a flick of the wrist. This is the future of the league.
Now, Mac Jones is not necessarily a bad quarterback; that is not the debate. It is whether he is the future for the Pats, and the answer is an overwhelming no. The Patriots must adapt to the new style of play, and we can not get bogged down in the stubbornness of our old methods. If the Patriots want to win a Super Bowl anytime in the next ten years, they must draft a new-age quarterback like Caleb Williams or Drake Maye in this draft class and accept that Tom Brady is gone. The Patriots dynasty is dead, but they are making decisions as if the greatest quarterback of all time is still under center; he is gone. It is abundantly clear something has to change, and that something starts with finishing the season with Mac sending him somewhere else in the offseason and drafting a new face of the franchise.