Perry: What to make of Mac Jones in 2022 and moving forward originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Matthew Slater sat at his stall and held his head with his right hand. Jerod Mayo left Highmark Stadium crestfallen. Jonathan Jones thought back to the handful of plays that might've been able to change the outcome.
The No. 1 story coming out of the Patriots locker room was that their season had ended. They fought. They kept it competitive for the vast majority of the game, holding a lead midway through the third quarter. But they let themselves down on special teams, and they didn't have the firepower to keep up with the Bills on the scoreboard.
But the bigger-picture story coming out of the Patriots locker room -- the one that could have even greater long-term reverberations for the direction of the franchise -- was that their quarterback wasn't able to take the step forward the organization was hoping he'd take.
Robert Kraft stated it very clearly during the league meetings back in March: He was unhappy his team hadn't won a playoff game in three years, and he expected it to contend this season. He felt it had a chance because of its "outstanding" coach and its "good young prospect at quarterback."
Not only did the Patriots not win a postseason game for the fourth-straight season, though, they didn't make the postseason for the second time in three years. And the quarterback Kraft said he was "a big fan of" before the start of the season, didn't progress the way anyone with the team wanted.
Mac Jones, in particular. Asked if he was "satisfied" with his progress this year, Jones answered clearly: "No."
"Obviously you look at each year of your football life and you want to get better as a player," he added. "I did. I learned a lot. And I think a lot of guys on our team learned a lot. But it was not the progress that any of us wanted to make.
"It starts with me ... We made a lot of progress throughout the year but not enough to consistently do it. It's disappointing."
The numbers buttress his point.
Jones finished the year, going into Sunday night, ranking 23rd in the NFL in yards per pass attempt (6.8). He had 14 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. His quarterback rating was 26th at 84.8. As a rookie he ranked 14th in yards per attempt (7.3). He had 22 touchdowns against 13 picks. And his rating was 15th at 92.5. His ESPN QBR figure this year was 27th (36.1) versus when he checked in at 16th in 2021 (56.9).
When asked why he didn't make the progress he was hoping for, Jones looked at himself.
"As a quarterback, I put the blame on me because it's my offense," he said. "It's my group of guys. We have to put a better product out there. It starts with me. Tough uphill battle. Learned a lot. Learned more than I ever could've imagined in a football season. Just want to be able to build on it."
The assumption is that there will be change to the Patriots offense in 2023. Perhaps in the form of a coaching change. The rumor mill is already churning. Bill O'Brien could be hired. Perhaps Kliff Kingsbury if he's relieved of his duties as Cardinals head coach. Maybe someone else.
Jones seemed to indicate he liked the group of players around him this season when he was asked what has to change for him to improve the way he wants headed into Year 3.
"Players, we have a great group," he said. "We all fought hard for each other. It's conversations that will be had. It's not important right now. Everybody put everything they had on the line. That's important. We played for the Patriot on the front of our jersey and the name on the back. At the end of the day, you can just control your effort. That's all you can control. Tough year. Tough ending. But I'm proud of the guys. Really blessed to have gone through a year like this, and honestly just looking forward to improving as a football player. Lot to digest."