Mac Jones, Patriots at a pivotal stage after quarterback's ankle injury

Curran: Mac Jones and Patriots are about to enter a pivotal stage originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Life was so good until last Thanksgiving.

The Patriots were 9-4 as the AFC's No. 1 seed and Mac Jones was on the odds-on favorite to be Offensive Rookie of the Year. Since? Not so good. And Mac’s kinda dodged blame because of how much he proved early. And that’s happened to a degree this year as well. He’s been absolved by the wacky offensive coaching setup around him.

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The team ended the 2021 season 1-4 including the playoffs and they’ve started 1-2 this year. Mac’s got 10 touchdown passes and 12 picks since that late-season bye. And if you extract the win over the horrific Jaguars, its 12 picks and 7 TDs.

And now he’s hurt.

This is a huge juncture in Jones' career. Jones -- and all the people who are part of a first-round quarterback’s inner circle in 2022 -- know how things have gone since the end of last year. They know the conversation. They see the stat slippage. And they can see and hear the reactions -- ranging from surprise to outrage -- over how Bill Belichick chose to replace Josh McDaniels and pivot the offense.

They know people are coming for Mac these days, too.

The Patriots have frittered away some goodwill with their young quarterback. How they proceed with Jones now in terms of an injury that could be two weeks or two months? It’s going to be very interesting to watch because a quarterback -- as we’ve seen by the contracts being handed out -- is a potential quarter-billion dollar industry unto himself.

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Bill can say the buck stops with him. But he’s 70. He’s a made man. Mac’s not.

He’s in that pivotal second year and doesn’t look like a Pro Bowler. And the stock’s falling. And he’s going to shoulder a lot of the blame for slippage, even if he is a victim of circumstance.

And that’s not good for his business.

Editor's Note: Tune into Quick Slants on NBC Sports Boston tonight at 6 p.m. ET to hear more insight from Curran on where Mac Jones stands with the Patriots. Weekly guest Kay Adams will join the show as well.