Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was benched for the final drive in New England’s 10-6 loss to the Colts and coming out of the bye week, it is no sure thing he is still the starting quarterback. Doug Benc/Associated Press

To no surprise, Bill O’Brien wouldn’t name a starting quarterback, much less say if the Patriots had decided to stick with Mac Jones, or go to a Plan B.

What the Patriots’ offensive coordinator intimated was that in his view, a lot of it comes down to practice, and who performs well there.

“I’ve said this, and I know people may scoff at this . . . you have to earn it on the practice field,” O’Brien told reporters during a video call Monday. “And you earn it on the practice field by quality reps. Really, you have to strive for perfection on the practice field. You’re not going to reach perfection on the practice field, but you’re going to strive for it, and try to execute on the high level. And hopefully that leads to good execution in the games.

“Right now, we haven’t had consistent execution in the games,” he went on. “So, we’ll see what happens down the road. But we’ve got to have a good meeting, walkthrough today, practice tomorrow . . . we have to have good practices. Then we can all determine at every position who should play the most. That’s really what I feel.”

That’s fine. On a lot of levels, that makes sense. But what if practice doesn’t translate on game day? And what if the game day quarterback has made so many critical mistakes, that the locker room has lost belief in him?

Then what? Stay with the quarterback who gets an ‘A’ in practice, but gets an ‘F’ during games? Stay with Mac Jones, because he’s the best quarterback you have, and practices the best of everyone in the quarterback room?


According to a Boston Herald report last week, Jones had lost 80 percent of the locker room. How can you stick with a guy who doesn’t have the support in the room, where players are questioning his ability to win games?

Answer: You can’t.

Whether the majority of the blame doesn’t sit in Jones’ lap, it’s hard to ignore the issues Jones has had, especially when the pressure ratchets up. He’s been mistake-prone, throwing killer picks, not to mention making mental mistakes that have hurt the cause.

Given how it’s played out with Jones getting worse, not better, it’s hard to ignore a locker room that doesn’t believe in the starter’s ability to pull them through in the clutch.

Perhaps the players won’t say it on the record – plenty have gone to bat for Mac and issued their support publicly. The Boston Herald report was based on inside sources.

But if you dig deep enough, you can also read between the lines on some of the themes that have been prevalent in the locker room recently.


In Germany, safety Jabrill Peppers admitted it doesn’t sit well holding Indy to 10 points and still losing the game.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Peppers said following the 10-6 loss. “But we had our chances to keep them backed up and Gardner Minshew made some great throws on the run… we held them to 10, but we had our chances to really put our foot on their throats and we definitely didn’t do it.”

From linebacker Josh Uche last week: “I think the mindset is understanding we have a better football team than our record would indicate. If you look at those games, there’s a lot of close games, a lot of one-score games and things like that. Just taking the good out of those situations some people compile as bad.”

So the players, particularly those on defense, are frustrated by how they’ve lost some games, and believe they’re not as bad as the record would indicate, given they’ve lost five one-score games.

Might quarterback play, which was unspoken, be a reason for that? Perhaps that’s reading too much into those quotes, but the defense has put the Patriots in position to win several more games this season, making stops and getting the ball back to Jones time and again. But, the results haven’t been there.

Jones delivered in one game against Buffalo, but couldn’t quite bring the team back in losses to Philadelphia, Miami, Las Vegas, Washington and Indianapolis.

Speaking with Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner last week, he said it’s tough for a quarterback to overcome a locker room that’s lacking in belief.

“If a quarterback’s not playing well, and the players in the locker room don’t feel like he’s playing well, and they don’t feel like they have a great chance to win with that guy the way he’s playing right now, they want a change,” said Warner. “They want something that gives them belief they can win.”

O’Brien indicated the quarterback decision rested with Coach Bill Belichick. Surely, the best practice player can’t always be the answer, can it?

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