Sep. 23—FOXBORO — Something is brewing at the quarterback position at 1 Patriot Place.
No, it’s not wins or touchdown passes. Just one thus far in each important category for the position.
And it’s not downfield passing to wide receivers. The Patriots’ quarterback is still in dinking-and-dunking mode as was expected the first month or two.
Mac Jones, “The Guy After The Guy,” is winning in another important area, though, much more subtle than those wonderful, deep passes we all long for.
Jones is winning respect. and he’s winning respect from the people that matter most — his teammates and coaches.
Obviously, Jones is the story in 2021. At least in September as this Patriots figure out their way and identity before the real fall temperatures arrive.
Sorry Cam Newton. But Jones was anointed as “The Next One” — people don’t like when I use the term “The Next Brady,” so I won’t — the real replacement for Tom Brady.
He was Bill Belichick’s first first-round pick at the quarterback position. Ever.
More important, beyond the stats and his incredible (and fake) completion percentage through two games — 51 for 69, 73.9 percent — the numbers are even better when it comes to earning the adoration, oftentimes unsolicited, of his teammates.
One of the best parts of that Marshawn Lynch-esque 26-yard run by Damien Harris, in which he was touched by eight different Jets last Sunday, was the ending.
Jones came in hard at the end, literally giving the final push to Harris’ butt, with center David Andrews. It literally got Harris into the end zone.
“Just doing my job,” said Jones. “On that play, just to see Damien trying and the offensive line running down there, I felt like I could help. But at the end of the day, [the offensive line] made the big hole for him, and he did all the work, so it shouldn’t be anything about me.”
Good answer. In fact, very good answer, indirectly, according to Bill Belichick, who was also asked about a Jones block on an end-around to Kendrick Bourne for a 16-yard run on 2nd-and-15.
“Being out front of a reverse, that’s kind of part of the play,” said Belichick. “I don’t know how much help Damien needed on the run, but Mac’s a competitive guy, and you love to see his competitive spirit come out.”
Andrews, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Devin McCourty are just a few who have gone out of their way talking about this kid like he’s, well, maybe something special due to stuff that isn’t always measured on the stat sheet.
“Transitioning from college to NFL quarterback, it’s hard to know what any of these guys can do,” said McCourty, on a Bill Simmons podcast. “But I would say Mac’s attitude, his approach to the game, I think made a lot of the veterans really like him and love what he was doing.”
McCourty didn’t stop there.
“He gets mad at himself. He’s hard on himself a lot,” said McCourty. “I said to him one time, ‘Man, you’re a rookie. You’ll make some mistakes. Just keep going.’ and I think guys saw right away what he wanted to do and the control that he had when he was out on the field, the poise.”
This is beyond “pumping up” your young quarterback’s tires.
Jones is truly earning the admiration of the elder statesmen of the team.
He seems uncomfortable at the podium, which is understandable for a 22-year-old. He could use some voice lessons and some tips to stay on subject.
But that doesn’t matter to Patriots fans.
“The more I’m around him, the more I see him get more confident,” said Harris, who said they are very good friends from their college days at Alabama.
“I love playing with him,” added Harris. “I love the kid very much.”
As for Patriots fans, while wildly supportive, they aren’t at “love” just yet.
In the end, Patriots fans are tough. True love will come with wins. Lots and lots of wins. Especially those in January and … gulp! … February.
You can email Bill Burt at [email protected].