Don’t mistake competitiveness for attitude.
A leaked story developed last week around Patriots quarterback Mac Jonesone that hasn’t matched anything the team has valued about their 2021 first-round pick since they lined up a year and a half ago.
According to some reports, Jones now has an attitude problem and a big ego, and it is believed to have clashed with the coaching staff.
Before last week, none of these words had ever been used to describe Jones, according to numerous conversations with people in the organization and those close to the quarterback. And since this story took on a life of its own last week, all of these characteristics have since been shot down again by some of those same people.
Now, let’s support it several years and review history to raise some points.
Jones’ former high school coach, the late Corky Rogers, was notoriously demanding on his quarterbacks, once even threatening to bench Jones after a touchdown pass because Rogers wanted him to throw it elsewhere. They often clashed but in a familiar way. The hard training was not always welcomed, but it was respected.
Later, Jones passed up other scholarships to commit to Alabama even though some coaches and advisors couldn’t understand it. The Crimson Tide already had a quarterback Jalen Dolas and a commitment from a five-star recruit Tua Tagovailoaso Jones’ chances of ever playing were never guaranteed.
As he bided his time at Alabama, Jones treated his responsibilities with the scout team as his own versions of games. During one particular run-heavy period against the starting defense that stacked the line to prepare for an upcoming opponent, Jones continued to change the play at the line, throwing deep and celebrating with his receivers after each big strike.
The defense complained to head coach Nick Saban, who yelled at Jones to knock it and stick to the script. Jones shot back something to the effect of, “If you don’t like it, tell your defense to stop it!” Saban smoked on the field, but the Alabama coaches laughed about it after practice.
That story highlighted the competitive spirit of Jones that endeared him to both his Alabama coaches and, later, to those in New England, too.
But that’s the kind of story that can easily be turned the other way around. For example: To boost his own ego — rather than help prepare the defense for their next game — Jones went rogue during practice, calling his own plays and yelling at Saban that his defense should figure out how to stop him.
See how that can work?
As Jones waited for a turnaround that was never promised, Alabama added uber-recruit Bryce Young to the QB room, but Jones didn’t transfer. He won the backup job in 2019 and relieved an injured Tagovailoa midway through the season, then beat out Young for the starting job in 2020. Jones was praised for his persistence throughout that process, and that proved to be a big draw for teams. who rated him before the draft. They saw a player who had no ego and felt no entitlement.
This past offseason, Jones dove headfirst into a conditioning program to get a leaner build. He was routinely one of the first players to arrive at Gillette Stadium, often getting there before coaches. That doesn’t sound like someone who got fat and happy after a Pro Bowl appearance in his rookie season.
And as the Patriots worked on a new offensive system — shuffling the playbook and simplifying the language in the post-Josh McDaniels era — Jones was praised for his collaborative communication. He would let them know – violently, sometimes – which plays or concepts he liked and didn’t like based on their ability to execute them, but all parties involved had a voice in the process.
This was all reported during the offseason, and Jones was largely praised for it. Now, following a newbie Bailey Zappe‘s sterling debut, there is suddenly a narrative forming that Jones was not happy with the direction of the offense. Perhaps, you could take the idea that he didn’t like certain plays and spin it into something else, but, according to those close to the quarterback, that would be a disingenuous stretch.
Finally, Jones suffered a high ankle sprain four weeks ago against the Crows, and he missed the last three games. The quarterback sought multiple opinions on his rehabilitation plan and ultimately decided against surgery. According to league officials with knowledge of the situation, Patriots coach Bill Belichick did not push him toward a procedure, contrary to another story that indicated the sides clashed over his recovery.
Jones will retain control of his starting job once he is healthy enough to go through a full game, and that is expected Monday night against the Bruins. Zappe’s performances over the past three weeks have been impressive and encouraging, but no one at Gillette Stadium seriously considered reordering the depth chart, according to league officials with knowledge of the situation.
It’s illogical how something can spiral out of control like this. If Jones was praised for each of these examples as they happened, let’s not rewrite history now to try to sell a point that doesn’t exist.
(Photo by Mac Jones: Paul Rutherford / USA Today)