It’s time wake up, wipe away the drool, climb out of bed and take a hard look in the mirror the morning after watching Jones put forth the worst quarterbacking performance in the Bill Belichick era.
The No. 15 overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft was an absolute bust for the Patriots. Make no mistake, Belichick deserves blame in the situation because his methods were a failure at developing a young quarterback that showed significant potential right out of the gates as a rookie.
But Jones is the man under center. He’s the one with the ball in his hands that every player on the team is supposed to look to and trust with the game on the line. Yet, time and time again, he has proven that he isn’t the right guy for that job in New England. Sunday’s 10-6 loss to the Colts was the breaking point.
Let’s delve into some leftover notes from the game.
The Patriots broke Mac Jones, and now, they can't fix him
Few quarterbacks could operate under the current circumstances with the Patriots. Outside of rookie Demario Douglas, the team is void of reliable talent at wide receiver, and the offensive line is banged up and a complete pushover in pass protection.
It barely took two quarters for Colts defenders to start picking their teeth with Mac Jones’ bones.
Mac Jones has been sacked 5 times in the first half (4 coming on third down).
Since 2000, most sacks taken by Patriots QB in a first half:
🏈Today: Mac Jones: 5 (vs IND)
🏈2015 Week 5: Tom Brady: 5 (at DAL)
🏈2008 Week 7: Matt Cassel: 5 (vs DEN)
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 12, 2023
The idea of Jones being broken is his reactions with the sky falling around him. Whenever the pocket collapses, he looks completely helpless and petrified under center, as any normal human being would in the face of oversized behemoths looking to turn him into a sack lunch.
There’s no swagger or confidence in his game. He’s playing like a guy trying not to lose an opportunity more so than a player taking command of it. Look, it isn’t easy to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. There are few of those guys on the planet, and teams are constantly searching for them.
Jones isn’t one of those guys.
There were at least two opportunities for him to put points on the board in the Patriots’ loss to the Colts. He flat out missed tight end Hunter Henry and nearly threw an interception on this pass attempt in the back of the end zone.
Third-down pass that probably should’ve been an end-zone interception from Mac Jones; owner Robert Kraft’s reaction. pic.twitter.com/chyckFw2oi
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) November 12, 2023
Then he came back and was short of the mark for what should have been an easy touchdown completion to the other tight end, Mike Gesicki.
Fire Mac Jones into the sun. This is the worst throw of his career pic.twitter.com/0upOL2qNLn
— Ben Brown 🌻 (@BenBrownPL) November 12, 2023
Watch the actual throwing mechanics in the failed pass to Gesicki. Jones’ feet aren’t set, and there’s no drive in his throw. Instead, he tries to float a pass off his front foot, and it ended in disaster. He was ultimately benched for the final drive of the game for backup Bailey Zappe.
That’s saying a lot when the team didn’t even trust him to finish the game. They would rather take their chances with a cold Zappe than putting Jones back out there one more time.
Bailey Zappe isn't the answer, but does it matter at this point?
Bailey Zappe had his chance to wear the red cap and turn “Zappe-mania” into a thing once again. The Patriots made the surprising decision of putting the offense in his hands for a potential game-winning drive in Germany over the Colts.
And like Jones had done so many times before him, Zappe crashed and burned by throwing a bad pass in an area with a bunch of Colts defenders for a game-ending interception.
The future in New England is equally as bleak with Zappe under center, if not even more so. There’s a reason why he was cut by the team before the start of the season. The Patriots wouldn’t have risked another team signing him if they thought he had starting quarterback potential. More importantly, they would have had a much shorter leash on Jones.
The team is caught between a rock and a hard place right now. Jones isn’t the answer, and neither are the other players on the roster. But it still feels like the team needs a bit of a reset, even if they are worse off for it. The Patriots could turn to Zappe or even journeyman Will Grier to start after the bye week.
However, a more fun option would be Malik Cunningham under center. He at least has the unique skill set of being able to escape from the pocket using his legs, when things break down around him.
Another great defensive season is being wasted
Bill Belichick focuses most of his resources in building a juggernaut defense, while bargain bin shopping on the offensive side of the ball. It’s a weird concept at this point considering how well he’s done coaching up a short-handed Patriots defense that has been ravaged with injuries this season.
The Patriots were missing their top players at every level on Sunday. They didn’t have Matthew Judon coming off the edge on the defensive front, and they were missing linebacker and team captain Ja’Whaun Bentley. Rookie cornerback sensation Christian Gonzalez is also out with a season-ending shoulder injury.
With all of those losses (and more), the Patriots defense still managed to hold the No. 7-ranked scoring offense to only 10 points. That should have been enough to win the game, and the fact that it wasn’t should infuriate fans.
If anything, it served as a reminder of how great of a defensive mind Belichick is and how backwards the team-building approach has been. The team-building should be focused more on the offensive side, while Belichick trusts his instincts as a defensive mind to coach up the defensive unit.
The coaching staff deserves blame, too
The coaching staff doesn’t get to escape culpability for the Patriots’ ugly showing in Germany on Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien could have leaned even heavier on the rushing attack, which was suddenly working to perfection, against the Colts. The pass protection clearly wasn’t there, and Mac Jones taking sacks and eventually ending up in 3rd-and-forever was crippling to the drives that could have ended in points.
Go ask your favorite Alabama fan how they experienced O’Brien, and they are guaranteed to mention his tendency to get away from the run game. That doesn’t make much sense given the injuries the Patriots have on the offensive front, along with the fact that they have Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott in the offensive backfield.
It makes no sense for Elliott in particular to only have 13 carries in the game.
Another incident of questionable coaching was the nine-man rush attempt on special teams without a returner. The Patriots became the butt of the joke on social media for the unorthodox play-call, but to be fair, they were simply attempting to be aggressive when having the Colts pinned in the end zone.
I can understand the thinking of a 2-7 team with a struggling offense trying to make something happen.
The @Patriots went for the all out punt block with no returner on the field.
— NFL (@NFL) November 12, 2023
The other decision that didn’t make much sense was the timing of the Mac Jones benching. Why not make that decision sooner, instead of turning to a cold Zappe coming off the bench for the final drive of the game?
It seemed like a spur of the moment decision where frustrations with Jones were boiling over. But it was clear that Zappe wasn’t going to do any better under the same conditions. The Patriots would have been better off finishing the game with Jones and making the change after the bye week.
Cooler heads didn’t prevail, and neither did the Patriots in the end.