A look back at first impressions left by Patriots quarterbacks

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Curran: A look back at first impressions left by Pats QBs through the years originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Got a chance to take in an OTA down at Gillette on Thursday. Given that this was a prime opportunity for sharing observations, I observed that Mac Jones seemed smaller than I imagined he’d be.

There were segments of the fanbase on social media that misconstrued my observation as being akin to my doing this to poor Mac.

Which led to this from the fandom.

Then this, also sent in my direction.

Really, it was just intended as this.

Our guy Mac is listed at 6-3. He was 6-2 5/8 at his Alabama Pro Day which is like a quarter-inch shorter than Jarrett Stidham. He weighed 214 at Alabama and 217 at his Pro Day. Stidham weighed 218 at the 2019 Combine.

Mac Jones is on the smaller side of quarterbacks – the 43rd percentile in height and 32nd percentile in weight. So he’s not smaller “compared to Cam Newton.” He’s smaller. And smaller than most Patriots quarterbacks. Not small. Small -ERRRRR. And seeing the little fella for the first time, I found it worth noting.  He’s not going to get much taller. But he should and will tune up his frame the same way Tom Brady did between 2000 and 2001 or Gunner Olszewski has the last two years.

As it was also worth noting that Jones threw with great accuracy and adequate but not jaw-dropping velocity.

As it was also worth noting that Newton was not just the least accurate quarterback on Thursday but also had some throws which were so far off target all you could do was shake your head.

As it was also worth noting that Stidham continues to be in possession of an arm that would be voted “Most Likely To Succeed."

I’m sure Jones has heard many, many times since he was about 15 that he wasn’t the ideal size and his arm was fine, OK, adequate. It’s a credit to him that he’s more than mitigated that by being smart, competitive, accurate and capable. But those kinds of attributes become apparent over a period of time.

If I walked out to the practice field, looked at Jones and reported, “He looks intelligent and competitive…” I mean … how does one see that through binoculars from 70 yards away? So you say what you see and that’s how it should be and that’s that.

But my friend and our esteemed Early Edition producer Jeff Capotosto had an idea. He said, “You remember what your other first impressions were? Like of Jimmy or Mallett or Brady?”

And the answer was, “By God, yes I do.”

The first time I recall actually seeing Brady was in July 2000 at Bryant College where the Patriots held training camp. The media would mill in front of the dining hall, picking off players for interviews as they exited and headed back to their dorm before afternoon practice.

It was a closed-off area but – since it was summer – there weren’t many Bryant students there anyway. Which is why I thought it strange when I saw what appeared to be a tallish but unimposing Bryant student with a backpack walk up the street and then turn toward the dining hall. On that day, Tom Brady – who was 6-foot-4 ½ and 211 pounds at the Combine – did not look like a former Big Ten quarterback and newly-minted NFL rookie. He looked a little schlubbish. His on-field performance that summer I don’t really remember at all.

A year later at the same college, Brady was outperforming Drew Bledsoe on a fairly-regular basis en route to eventually taking the starting job in New England. I remember that clearly. It was kind of obvious. And Brady went on to have a successful career.

Jimmy Garoppolo? Same thing as Jones. He looked surprisingly short to me at 6-foot-2. But, unlike Jones, Jimmy G. was pretty thick. He was 226 at the Combine. Big chest, big shoulders. And I remember noticing that Garoppolo’s release was absurdly quick. Still is.   

Ryan Mallett? He struck me as gangly with a ridiculously long windup, no changeup and with all the long-range accuracy of buckshot. I found him a very easy guy to talk to which is why once, after a practice, we were chatting and I decided to ask him if he was aware he was bringing the ball down below his belt during his motion. He stopped smiling, tilted his head and said, “Are you telling me how to throw?”

“Yeah, I guess I am,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

Mac Jones' 'swag' among early positive signs for Pats QB

That effectively ended that conversation. Looking back now, I guess I didn’t realize just how big Mallett was. Almost 6-foot-6, 256 pounds with hands almost an inch-and-a-half bigger than Brady’s.

I remember that Rohan Davey was a massive human when the Patriots drafted him in the fourth round in 2002. Double-checking, yes indeed. He was 6-1, 245 pounds with huge hands. He could absolutely throw the hell out of the ball.

I don’t remember one single thing about Kliff Kingsbury (The Klifford of Kingsbury) drafted in 2003. Same for Kevin O’Connell and Matt Gutierrez and – sadly – Matt Cassel.

But the most electric and athletic first impression left by a quarterback that I recall? Michael Bishop. Drafted in 1999 after a Heisman-worthy final year at Kansas State, he was only 6-foot-1, 205 pounds at the Combine. But his arm was so explosive and he was so quick to accelerate – especially compared to the landlocked Drew Bledsoe – it was fascinating to watch him compete. Even if he wasn’t terribly accurate and threw every pass at about 83 MPH. Looking back, I may also be romanticizing the speed - he only ran a 4.85 at the Combine. But he was fun as hell to watch.

Which brings us back to Mac. How a guy looks physically on the third practice of Phase 3 OTAs in his rookie year is not a predictor of anything. But isn’t wholly worth ignoring either especially in a profession where size matters. We’ll tell you how the other things look as that evidence gets submitted.

For now, first impression, Mac looks ordinary. Same as another guy did 21 summers ago.