What New England Patriots fans have learned for over two decades while Tom Brady was leading the pack is that Bill Belichick won’t praise his star quarterback. In fact, a lack of praise could be the ultimate compliment from the future Hall-of-Fame coach. That has not been the case so far for 2020 first-round pick Mac Jones.
A lack of praise has led to perceived drama between the Patriots quarterback and coach, especially with Bailey Zappe in the picture.
Some of that lack of praise is on the quarterback, who took a step back in his second year in the NFL. But it wasn’t just his performance on the field, it was how he handled the team’s lack of execution off the field.
Patriots success in 2023 depends on the maturation of Mac Jones
Put most of that on Belichick as well, who played a role of his young quarterback’s regression with that head-scratching decision to go with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as the team’s offensive play callers. A coach like Belichick recognizes his mistakes (although he won’t admit them). The team has a real offensive coordinator in 2023 with the hiring of Bill O’Brien and things are expected to be much different for Mac Jones and the Patriots offense.
During his Monday appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show, Belichick talked about his quarterback group, particularly Jones, expressing that the team has make a lot of progress with room for improvement, obviously. He talked about how the team has worked to improve timing, communication, and execution.
Although the offensive line is in shambles due to key injuries, the offense showed flashes during the team’s 21-17 preseason victory over the Green Bay Packers. Mac Jones showed toughness in stepping up in the pocket for a couple of plays and Zappe had his moments as well. But what everyone wants to know is how does Belichick feel about Mac?
When asked about the expectations for his third-year quarterback, Belichick threw out a little bit of praise.
"“Everybody’s different, I’ve coached a couple thousand players, they’re all different,” Belichick said, as transcribed by WEEI. “No two are the same. You take it day-by-day, week-by-week, year-by-year. Mac’s got a great routine, he works hard, trains hard, is in here a lot, studies a lot of film, stays on top of things. That quarterback room, Trace and Bailey and Mac, they all, that’s a hard-working group. They put in a lot of time, a lot of effort and I respect that.”"
Well, okay, he was complimenting all his quarterbacks, but his comments are geared at reminding Mac that the job is not guaranteed although it is his to lose. What Belichick does with a lot of his players is keep them motivated and working hard without giving them too much praise.
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At this point in his career, Mac Jones hasn’t really earned that status with Belichick, but if he really proves himself in 2023 as a leader of the offense, that will change. Three offensive coordinators in three years is not ideal for any young quarterback, but as far as football smarts, Jones is one of the few quarterbacks who can. That is where Belichick truly compliments him.
"“Mac’s a pretty flexible guy,” Belichick said when asked about the transition between coordinators. “He’s smart, gets along well with everybody. I wouldn’t expect that to be a problem.”"
The Patriots quarterback has offered nothing but praise from O’Brien, who he worked with during his days at Alabama. Although he took a couple of sacks in the preseason game against the Packers, Jones did look comfortable running the offense. That comfort is from his confidence in the man calling the plays as well as trust from his head coach.
Those two factors will help Mac Jones thrive in 2023 as the Patriots leader and signal caller on offense.