The New England Patriots have found their quarterback of the future, but whether or not he also becomes the quarterback of the present is a different question.
There is not doubt that the expectations for Mac Jones are to one day take over as the Patriots’ starter. New England wouldn’t have drafted him 15th overall if that was not the case. However, with Cam Newton getting re-signed earlier this offseason and with the learning curve from college to the pro level being as steep as it is there is a realistic chance that the youngster will play second fiddle early on in his career.
For as intriguing a prospect as Jones might be, he has neither the experience in the system nor the league that Newton or third-year backup Jarrett Stidham possess. The 22-year-old said so himself during his initial media conference call after getting picked by the Patriots.
“I’ve never played in the NFL or anything and I don’t know what it’s like, so I’m just going to go in there and work really hard like I always have and I always will. I mean, Cam earned the respect of the team already and my job is to support him and Jarrett and help them become better players if I can,” Jones said.
“I’ve never played in the NFL, but I have seen good football and I know that I can help them with anything they need, whether it’s taking notes or taking stress off their mind. I’m just going to be that great teammate that I know I can be.”
For as impressed as the Patriots were with Newton as a leader in his first season with the team, and for the urgency Stidham showed during the offseason, the outlook remains the same for all of them: they will hold down the fort until Jones becomes ready. This could be in 2021, maybe only in 2022.
It will come, however, unless the Crimson Tide QB turns into an all-time bust for New England.
For the time being, though, Jones himself acknowledged that the Patriots offense would be Newton’s show.
“Cam’s awesome and I’ve only heard great things when talking to people that I know from the Patriots about how great of a guy he is and how much everyone loves him. He just has fun with it, and I do too, so hopefully we can kind of have fun together and I’ll help him out,” he said. “I mean, it’s his show and I’m just there to support him and then kind of just help out the team in whatever way I can.”
Jones does not appear to be the only person to share this opinion. Patriots head coach/general manager Bill Belichick also said during his own post-draft media session that Newton would be the team’s quarterback, while Jones’ outlook is on learning the system and getting up to speed at the moment.
“We’ll see how it goes. Cam’s our quarterback,” Belichick said. “Whatever position, whatever time Jarrett or Mac are ready to challenge and compete, then we’ll see how that goes. But right now, Mac, he’s just got a lot of learning in front of him.”
Belichick was later asked to clarify his statements on Newton as the Patriots’ quarterback. He had no plans to do that, however, as the following transcript provided by the team shows:
Q: Going back to your comments off the top, you said that Cam’s our quarterback. What exactly does that mean?
BB: Just what I said.
Q: Just that, I mean, if, when you start practice, he’ll be the first guy back there, that’s the starter, how long does that last for?
BB: I don’t know. Somebody would have to play better than he does.
Jones is the premier candidate to grow into that somebody at one point further down the line. But until he shows he can be the QB1 New England is hoping it drafted, Cam Newton remains on the inside track to leading this offense into the immediate future.