If you’re looking to defend Mack Jones in some way, there’s now an intriguing piece of video that’s not a New England Patriots coach/jukebox pass. Bill Belichick repeats Let’s see how it goes today.
Remember that infield interception thrown by Jones in the Patriots’ 33-14 home loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday? Well it power changed trajectory when it crossed a wire supporting ESPN’s SkyCam hovering camera during a Monday Night Football broadcast. A piece of slow motion video that looks odd shows the spin of the ball twitching slightly as it crosses the wire before being intercepted by insurer Jakuan Brisker.
If the ball touched the wire, play would have to be stopped by the referee, nullifying a pass that appeared to send Jones to the bench in favor of rookie Bailey Zappe. ESPN Denied his equipment had anything to do with Wednesday’s interception, releasing a statement that the wire “was more than 15 feet above the ball” in the video in question.
Perhaps it was an optical illusion. Possibly a bad angle. It’s basically an irrelevant sideshow when it comes to the sinking reality in New England. If Jones’ best defense is due to a phantom equipment fault rather than his head coach, the Patriots have a serious problem.
The simple truth is that the whole Jones situation was – and continues to be – corrupted by Belichick. He lost two of his best savants when it came to offense when Tom Brady walked out the door, followed two years later by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Now Belichick’s attempt to replace both has the momentum and trajectory of a piano thrown out of a 10th floor window.
To make matters worse, Belichick makes mistakes that seem surprisingly amateurish for a manager who must understand how to deal with an injured sophomore defenseman. And for those who might be wondering, this is how some look at Jones inside the building. Not like a draft failure. Not like the detail-focused quarterback in the past who suddenly can’t process a defense. And not as an inferior player to Zappe.
Instead, here’s how some employees view Jones.
He’s a sophomore quarterback who just lost McDaniels, one of the NFL’s most experienced offensive coordinators. Now he is adjusting to Matt Patricia, who had no experience in identifying violations. He barely plays in full health due to a high ankle sprain that most likely should have kept him out of action against the Bears. He doesn’t play on offense built in terms of talent to compete with at least two teams in the division (Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins). And with one season of the film available, defenders are better aware of its weaknesses and blind spots.
If all this is processed, then there is a predictably complex set of circumstances that affect the next phase of Jones’s growth. This should be understandable given that the NFL is a league that thrives on continuity, roster talent and experience. If Jones’s criticisms were realistic about scoring these three columns on a scale of 1 to 10, New England’s scores would be average at best.
But what cannot be explained now is what Belichick did to Jones on Monday, notably failing to support him to the point of poisoning fans against him. And not only because of this public chatter between Jones and Zappe, but also because of the decision to bring Jones to the field against the Bears when Belichick, by his own admissiondid not seem to believe that Jones was healthy.
Consider the wave that brought New England into play in Chicago. Not only had Zappe won the previous two weeks, he seemed to be getting better from one win to the next. The team had momentum. There was no pressure on Jones to recover quickly and return to the lineup.
However, rather than ride that wave, Belichick brought Jones back into the starting lineup when he was not well. And the result, when he fought, was exactly what Belichick could have expected. Jones was booed and Zappa was given a standing ovation as he entered the game. And when it was all over, their juggling failed miserably. One could only wonder if Jones benched Belichick due to injury or performance.
Belichick said it was not for the show. And it’s been the dominant storyline in New England ever since.
A lot of it has to do with Belichick, and it’s alarming. Aside from his running back depth, he has surrounded the quarterback position with the worst set of skill pieces in the AFC East – and that’s not even close. If you zoom out even further, Patriots players in terms of skill (again, except for those running back) might end up in the bottom third of the AFC. This is a serious problem and there is no one to blame but Belichick.
This might have been the biggest problem if not for his harsh handling of McDaniels’ departure. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that team owner Robert Kraft went to great lengths to lure McDaniels back into the ranks after he had already landed a job with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. Maybe Kraft knew something the others didn’t when it came to Belichick’s complete lack of a plan. Because you can be sure that Brady wouldn’t put up with what’s being piled on Jones right now.
Belichick could have handled the coaching change better. He could also make better decisions as the team’s general manager. First of all, he could better protect a quarterback who is injured and out of control.
Just one season ago, the same quarterback was a rookie pro bowler and breathed a sigh of relief in New England. Now that sigh has turned into cries of alarm. And Belichick has no one to blame but himself.