Mac Jones struggled mightily during his second season in the NFL. After earning a Pro Bowl nod and guiding the Patriots to a 10-7 record as a rookie, Jones went 6-8 while tossing 14 touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions in 2022. Rookie fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe started a pair of games while filling in for an injured Jones last season, winning both of his starts while tossing three touchdowns vs. one pick in those two games.
Jones’ 2022 struggles can easily be attributed to the loss of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (and replacing the OC with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge), and when you consider New England’s first-round investment in Jones, it’s easy to assume that he’ll retain his starting gig heading into the 2023 campaign. However, coach Bill Belichick refused to give Jones a vote of confidence following the 2022 season, leading some to wonder if the Patriots could have a QB competition heading into next year.
In typical Belichick fashion, the head coach didn’t provide too much insight into the QB situation while speaking to reporters today, noting that “everyone will get a chance to play” and the Patriots will opt for “the best player.”
“If they earn an opportunity to play based on what they do in practice and all that, then they’ll get an opportunity to play,” Belichick said (via Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald). “Certainly the veteran players that have been on the team before, if they’re still on the team, they’ll all get an opportunity to play.”
It’s not a huge surprise to see Belichick playing coy, but as Callahan notes, Belichick definitively stated that Tom Brady and Cam Newton were the starting QBs throughout their respective tenures with the Patriots. Now, Jones certainly doesn’t have the resume of either of his predecessors, but it’s certainly interesting that Belichick continues to avoid answering questions about his quarterbacks depth chart.
While Belichick might not want to publicly support Jones, the QB has a fan in Robert Kraft.
“I’m a big fan of Mac,” the Patriots owner said (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Twitter). “We experimented with some things last year that didn’t work. We made changed to put him in position to excel.”
More notes out of New England…
- When Jerod Mayo rejected head coaching interviews and decided to stick with the Patriots, it was assumed the organization promised him a larger role…with some wondering if Mayo may have the inside track on succeeding Belichick as head coach. Kraft somewhat acknowledged as much during an interview on NFL Network, saying he views Mayo as a potential heir apparent to Belichick (via NFL.com’s Judy Battista on Twitter). Kraft also told NFL Network that he doesn’t see a ceiling on Mayo’s coaching career. Following an eight-year playing career with the Patriots, Mayo joined New England’s coaching staff as linebackers coach in 2019. Recently, he’s served as the unofficial defensive coordinator alongside Steve Belichick.
- Patricia earned plenty of criticism last season while serving as the team’s de facto offensive coordinator. The Patriots have since brought in Bill O’Brien to guide their offense, but there hasn’t been a reported resolution on Patricia’s status with the organization. Naturally, Belichick didn’t provide many additional details on the situation, telling reporters that he’s unsure if Patricia will be coaching for the Patriots in 2023 (via AtoZSports’ Doug Kyed on Twitter). After serving as the Patriots defensive coordinator for six years, Patricia returned to the organization in 2021 following a three-year stint as the Lions head coach.
- New Patriots receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has incentives in his contract tied to receiving yards, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter). In 2023, the wideout can earn $750K if he hits 950 yards and he can earn another $750K at 1,100 yards. In 2024 and 2025, Smith-Schuster can earn $1MM for 800 yards, $1MM for 950 yards, and another $1MM for 1,100 yards.
- James Robinson‘s new contract with the Patriots contains no guaranteed money, per Kyed (on Twitter). He’ll earn a $150K roster bonus if he sticks on the 2023 roster, plus $160K via a workout bonus and up to $680K in per-game roster bonuses.