Many members of the New England Patriots, including head coach Bill Belichick, are still behind Mac Jones, despite the quarterback being replaced by Bailey Zappe during the 38-3 blowout defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4.
Jones was sent to the bench in the third quarter after throwing two interceptions, including a pick-six by Cowboys’ defensive back DaRon Bland. New England’s QB1 also lost a fumble that was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
How long Jones remains the Patriots’ starter remains in question, but Belichick explained the decision by revealing, “I didn’t think there was any point in leaving him in the game.” Belichick also appeared to confirm Jones will start Week 5’s game against the New Orleans Saints, per NBC Sports Boston.
Belichick appearing content to stick with Jones is quite the endorsement after coach and quarterback hit new lows in Dallas, although both received backing from more than one Patriots player.
Belichick, Jones Still Backed by Patriots
Several of Jones’ teammates were quick to tell reporters they still believe in No. 10. Among them, running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who said the Patriots “love him” when referring to Jones, per Mark Daniels of MassLive.com.
Stevenson wasn’t the only member of the offense to speak up for Jones. The person in closest contact with the third-year passer on gamedays also came to his defense.
Center David Andrews refused to put the blame for the heavy defeat at AT&T Stadium on Jones, with Chad Graff of The Athletic reporting the offensive lineman made it clear “it’s never one person’s fault.”
Andrew is right that players win together and lose together, but when a team is struggling as much as the 1-3 Patriots are, making a change at football’s most important position is often seen as the quickest fix.
Belichick doesn’t seem to be thinking along those lines, although the six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach’s own position could be in question. That was put to defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr., per Daniels, but the veteran said “we’re behind him (Belichick), we’ll play for him.”
It seems outlandish to suggest Belichick could be under pressure after such a lengthy and decorated career in New England. Yet, almost two decades of success have rapidly unravelled since Tom Brady left town in 2020.
Belichick hasn’t been able to win consistently without TB12 because he hasn’t found the right replacement under center. The problem has lingered, even though Jones wasn’t supposed to struggle to this extent. Not after the changes the Patriots made to improve his supporting cast this offseason.
Jones Out of Excuses for Continued Struggles
Belichick may be prepared to stick with Jones for now, but the coach decided a change was necessary after watching the ex-Alabama star complete just 12 of 21 passes for 150 yards and struggle to protect the football against a marauding Cowboys’ pass rush.
By the third period Belichick had seen enough, with Fox Sports: NFL capturing the moment Jones was told to shut it down for the day.
The decision couldn’t prevent Belichick suffering a defeat of historic proportions after Zappe hardly fared any better. He went just four of nine for 57 yards, but Zappe didn’t have to do much to generate even a hint of optimism after Jones had left the field.
There isn’t much optimism after Belichick lost by a margin he’d never experienced before as a head coach, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
A moment as significant as this one, for all the wrong reasons, could prompt any coach to take dramatic action. If Belichick is hesitating to make the switch it might be because of the work he did to retool the offense after hanging Jones out to dry somewhat in 2022.
The decision to let former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and ex-special teams coach Joe Judge call the offense last season hardly did Jones any favors. Belichick sought to make amends by bringing Bill O’Brien back as play-caller, before signing wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, tight end Mike Gesicki and running back Ezekiel Elliott in free agency.
Wideouts Demario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte later came off the board during the 2023 NFL draft, adding to a revamped supporting cast around Jones. With this many new weapons, there are little excuses left for Jones not to improve.
If Jones can’t take a stride or two soon, Belichick will surely be heeding calls for Zappe to take the reins.