Considering he spent his entire NFL career with the New England Patriots, retired linebacker Ted Johnson understands the inner workings of the organization better than most.
As someone who played for Bill Belichick from 2000-04, the three-time Super Bowl champion can offer insight into how the second-winningest coach in NFL history thinks. And when it comes to Mac Jones, Johnson believes his former boss views the team’s starting quarterback in a negative light.
“I don’t think he likes the kid at all right now,” Johnson said during his January 10 appearance on “Toucher & Rich.”
He further added, “You do not question Bill. You don’t upstage him. You don’t make him look bad. Time after time Mac has done that in his very clever way too. I don’t think Bill likes the kid at all right now. I really don’t.”
Belichick had an opportunity to silence speculation about Jones’ job security on January 9. However, instead of confirming his incumbent starter will remain atop the depth chart moving forward, he delivered a non-committal answer.
“I think Mac has the ability to play quarterback in this league,” Belichick said during his press conference.
That comment caught Johnson’s attention, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Patriots’ offense.
“If I’m Mac Jones listening to that press conference yesterday, I’m sick to my stomach,” he said. “That was as lukewarm support for Mac Jones as you can ever have from Bill Belichick.”
Did Bill Belichick Set Mac Jones Up for Success in 2022?
After entrusting Josh McDaniels to prepare Jones to play as a rookie, Belichick’s decision to place his quarterback’s future in the hands of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge backfired badly for a Patriots team that posted their second losing record in three seasons.
Rather than replacing one of the league’s most respected offensive coordinators with someone with play-calling experience, Belichick put Patricia in charge of coaching the offensive line and calling playing plays.
He doubled down on his strategy of putting familiar faces in new places by having Judge coach quarterbacks.
Jones went from being a solid starter who showed plenty of promise to finishing his second NFL season as one of the league’s most inefficient quarterbacks. Plagued by protection issues, poor route timing, and questionable play calling, the former Alabama standout only threw 14 touchdowns in 14 starts, and his yards-per-attempt average dropped from 7.3 to 6.8.
While Jones made some costly mistakes and took some avoidable sacks, he did not have the benefit of having an experienced offensive coaching staff on his side.
Will that be the case in 2023?
Patriots Must Address Bigger Issues on Offense Than Quarterback
Even if Belichick left the door open about starting another quarterback next season, he has more pressing issues to solve.
First, who will run the offense?
Bill O’Brien and Kliff Kingsbury have been named as potential candidates to replace Patricia, who oversaw a unit that finished 17th in scoring and 26th in total yards. The former could resume a role he held in 2011 when the Patriots finished third in scoring.
Meanwhile, the latter could return to the organization that selected him in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft and provide new ideas to streamline New England’s archaic offense.
In addition to the coaching staff, Belichick must address the offensive tackle position. Neither Trent Brown nor Isaiah Wynn projects to return in 2023, so the Patriots will likely have to find two new starters.
Plus, both tight end and receiver could get overhauled over the coming months.
And with running back Damien Harris set to hit free agency, Belichick may have to find another starting-caliber player to pair with 2022 breakout star Rhamondre Stevenson.