Quarterback Mac Jone, who the Patriots are trading to the Jaguars, did not have a strong relationship with former coach Bill Belichick, did not have enough weapons or good enough coaching, and lost the locker room. New England cannot afford for the its next quarterback to deal with the same issues. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The end was inevitable.

Mac Jones traded for a late-round draft pick, a sad offseason transaction prompted by two years of misery, dysfunction and on-field disaster.

Jones was never going to see Year 4 in New England. Old quarterbacks never survive new regimes, especially when they accrue enough baggage to fill a whole carousel. But the journey that led to Jones’ baggage, the Patriots’ losing and their shared pain?

Completely avoidable.

At every fork, the Patriots took the road less travelled with Jones and didn’t miss a single pothole.

Jones needed a new coordinator and play-caller entering a pivotal second season? Say hello to … Matt Patricia?


He needed a new No. 1 receiver for a weapon-starved team? In consecutive years, the Patriots opted for a discount in DeVante Parker and damaged goods in JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Jones’ offensive line, a weakness in 2022, required repairs heading into a do-or-die campaign? The front office patched it with veteran cast-offs and Day 3 draft picks who, predictably, flopped and expedited the offense’s backslide.

Now, enough ink has been spilled retracing all of the Patriots’ failures and Jones’ shortcomings for the purpose of understanding how and why the team fell apart. All sides deserve blame. That exercise is tired, useless now.

The only value in examining the past is how it can fertilize the Patriots’ future; lessons new head coach Jerod Mayo and de facto GM Eliot Wolf can take from Bill Belichick’s missteps with Jones to ensure they don’t repeat the worst run of recent franchise history.

Because teams fail quarterbacks more often than quarterbacks fail teams. The Patriots failed Jones, who greased the wheels of his own demise by losing his confidence, the locker room and, occasionally, his cool. Back in October, I co-authored a deep dive into Jones’ fall from a promising rookie to a lost quarterback. This was more than a month before Belichick shelved Jones for good.

By then, it was already evident Jones was not good enough to overcome his circumstances and lead a winning operation; circumstances that are better described as poor roster talent. Herein lies the first lesson.


The Patriots failed, bewilderingly so, to capitalize on Jones’ cost-controlled rookie contract. In 2021, he proved he was a capable starter, when supported by a proper coaching staff and offensive line. He was a pocket-bound point guard, to be sure; a quarterback who could not extend plays or generate explosive gains on his own.

Jones would guide winning, rather than drive it himself. But instead of spending the extra cash to add explosive players, the Patriots stood pat. They ranked among the cheapest teams by cash spending the past couple seasons, when Jones played on a team-friendly contract.

If/when the Patriots draft a rookie next month, they must spend on explosive weapons. The front office reportedly intend to take a “big swing” at top free-agent wideout Calvin Ridley. That’s a good start, but this offense – which currently owns the worst skill-position talent in the league – needs more.

New Patriots Coach Jerod Mayo, and his coaching staff, need to have a healthy relationship with their next quarterback, something Mac Jones did not have with Bill Belichick. Stew Milne/Associated Press

Next: maintain a healthy partnership with the quarterback.

Before Jones broke on the field before our very eyes, his relationship with Belichick fractured. Belichick considered trading him after just two seasons because of how his young quarterback rubbed him the wrong way, and barely uttered his name publicly. Meanwhile, Mayo has said repeatedly he wants to connect with players personally, even “coach out of love,” as Belichick’s replacement.

Again, a good start. But the Patriots need more.


Next: ensure the next quarterback’s mentally tough and acts as a unifying force in the locker room. While Jones’ commitment was never questioned, his immaturity flashed on the field and behind closed doors. There were signs of that immaturity in the draft process, before the Patriots picked him 15th overall, as the fifth quarterback drafted in that class.

Eventually, enough veterans were turned off by Jones’ antics amid losing stretches, particularly on defense, that he lost most of his teammates by midseason. Wolf sounds determined to add a quarterback who won’t foster the same type of environment.

“First of all, being someone that can elevate his teammates, someone that your teammates want to play for,” Wolf explained last month at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I think that’s an extremely underrated thing that people don’t talk about that much. Leadership’s important, and obviously physical talent. We wouldn’t be talking about these guys if they weren’t physically talented.”

Lastly: find a quarterback who can create yards and points on his own. This trait has never been more valuable in the NFL, at the end of the scoring boom when defenses are sitting back in two-high coverages and daring offenses to run and throw for short gains. Explosive plays correlate more strongly with winning than any statistic outside of turnovers, and are increasingly hard to come by.

That is, except when you have a quarterback who can scramble and/or extend plays out of structure. A quarterback with these abilities is akin to an NBA player who can make a tough shot late in the shot clock, after his team’s set play has gone awry. Jones could only operate within structure, something the best quarterbacks in the league – Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert – don’t require.

Why? They’re among the most accurate and athletic passers in the league, an unbeatable combo.

All told, Mac Jones tenure with the Patriots was a failure. But failure at the quarterback can be contained to the time he spent here.

If – and only if – the Patriots listen and learn from their past as they search for his replacement.

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