The Patriots Future Hangs In The Balance With Mac Jones Entering A Make-Or-Break Year in 2023
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In today’s newsletter:
Mac Jones make-or-break year
Vikings Hunter Holding Out
RB James Robinson released by Patriots
New England is home to one of the greatest sports dynasties in the modern era. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady turned the Patriots into one of the most storied franchises in the NFL.
When Brady was drafted by the Patriots in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft the team had yet to secure the coveted Lombardi trophy. Twenty years later and the Patriots are tied with the Steelers for the most super bowl wins in NFL history.
With Brady departing New England in 2020 to join forces with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots found themselves in a conundrum. They had to figure out the solution to replace the GOAT.
That’s no easy task. Tom Brady’s don’t grow on trees. It can be a grueling process to secure a franchise QB that can get the job done year, after year, after year.
Look at teams like the Browns. 33 starting quarterbacks in the last 23 years. You’d think after rolling the dice 33 times a team would finally find an answer, but it’s yet to happen. Maybe Deshaun Watson resurrects his career in 2023, but if the past tells us anything it’s that Cleveland is where quarterbacks' dreams go to die.
The Patriots hope that their future in no way resembles the Browns' inability to find a franchise quarterback.
Enter the 2021 NFL draft.
The Patriots are on the clock at #15 with 4 quarterbacks already off the board: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields. The Patriots have a decision to make.Do they pull the trigger on Mac Jones or try to find their guy later in the draft? Bill Belichick and the front office make the decision and Mac Jones becomes the heir apparent to Tom Brady in New England.
Now we are 2 years removed from Mac Jones taking the reins in New England. After his rookie season in 2021, things were looking up. Jones threw for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Those are solid stats for a first year QB.
However in 2022, things took a turn for the worst. Jones ended this past season with 2,997 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. A big dip in production from his first season. Typically QBs take a jump in their 2nd season, but that was not the case for Mac Jones. He declined.
The thing is, it wasn’t all his fault.
One big factor in Jones’ decline was losing offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Las Vegas Raiders after his rookie season. McDaniels had been with the Patriots from 2012 to 2021 and had witnessed and been a part of Tom Brady’s success in New England first hand. Instead of finding someone with a history of calling plays on offense Bill Belichick decided to go with former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
Oftentimes Belichick’s decisions end up panning out, but this one did not. The offense went from being the 7th best scoring offense in 2021 to the 16th ranked scoring offense in 2022.
After the dismal offensive season in 2022 the New England brass knew that a change needed to be made if they wanted to save the career of Mac Jones. He was not heading in the right direction. In January, Patricia got the boot as play caller.
The Patriots hired Bill O’Brien, former Texans head coach who spent the past two seasons as offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama. O’brien also has a history with the Patriots and Belichick. He coached with the Patriots from 2007-2012 and was the primary play caller for three of those years. The offense under O’brien experienced consistent success. That’s a stark difference in resume compared to Patricia. Mac Jones will be in much better hands in 2023.
This isn’t to say that Mac Jones doesn’t carry responsibility for his poor showing in 2022. He clearly had issues that held back the Patriots offense. But there’s a good chance with O’brien at the helm that Mac Jones will improve on his down year in 2022.
The Patriots have always been a team carried by elite defenses. Belichick is a defensive guru. Mac Jones doesn’t need to be otherworldly for the Patriots to have success.
If Bill O’Brien can’t fix Mac Jone’s issues from 2022, it may be that the play calling is not the issue. The Patriots could be looking elsewhere in 2024 if Mac Jones doesn’t at least get back to his level of play in 2021. It’s a make or break year.
News From Around the NFL
Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter to sit out vikings mandatory minicamp. (via Kevin Siefert ESPN)
Hunter agreed to a 5yr $172 million deal with the Vikings in 2018. He’s entering the final year of his deal in 2023. It looks like there is a contract dispute on the Vikings hands. While Hunter had a productive season last year with 10.5 sacks, he’s had a hard time staying healthy over the years. He missed all of 2020 and only played 7 games in 2021. My guess is the Vikings are cautious about giving a big extension to a guy who hasn’t consistently shown that he can stay healthy.
Patriots release RB James Robinson
James Robinson entered the league in 2020 as an undrafted free agent and ran for 1,070 yards with the Jaguars. He was a beast. I know this first hand because I picked him up in my fantasy league that year. He then ran for over 700 yards in 2021 before tearing his ACL in December of that year. He signed with the Jets after Breece Hall’s injury in 2022 but only finished with 425 rushing yards. The Patriots signed him in March hoping he could provide depth, but things have clearly not gone as they’d hoped. Jeff Howe of the athletic reported this morning that injuries were the reason for the release.
Mac Jones Says He’d Love to have DeAndre Hopkins in New England
When asked about a potential player joining your team there is not much else that you can say. If you say you don’t think your team needs him you sound like a hater. I do believe that Mac Jones is telling the truth in this scenario. Hopkins could help take Mac Jones’ game to another level. Hopkins is scheduled to meet with the Patriots on a free agent visit sometime soon. We’ll see if the Patriots pull the trigger, or if they feel comfortable with their unit.
Random Stat Of The Day
Kirk Cousins is tied with Matthew Stafford for the most game winning drives in a single season since 1960. Kirk Cousins had 8 game winning drives in 2022 while Matthew Stafford had 8 game winning drives in 2016.
Random Question Of The Day
“What can you talk about for hours?”
I love talking about dreams and visions for the future. It’s fun when you find people who have a desire to pursue big goals. You can help push each other forward and grow together. I’ve noticed that when I surround myself with people who think big, it inspires and motivates me to think big as well. I believe that God has a specific purpose for each of us. He’s given us gifts and abilities to do things that no one else can do. It can be tempting to be limited by circumstance, but faith in what is possible is what should drive us forward.
That’s all for today!
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