The Other McCain

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Bill Belichick Bets Big on Mac Jones; Patriots Release Veteran QB Newton

Posted on | August 31, 2021 | Comments Off on Bill Belichick Bets Big on Mac Jones; Patriots Release Veteran QB Newton

Forget about Afghanistan and Hurricane Ida, this is the big news:

In a stunning move, the New England Patriots released veteran quarterback Cam Newton on Tuesday, turning things over to rookie Mac Jones as the starter, ESPN has confirmed.
Coach Bill Belichick had said repeatedly that Newton was the team’s starting quarterback but that he had to reestablish that position, or someone would have to play better than him. Jones has done that, in Belichick’s view.
Jones finished the preseason 36-of-52 for 389 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions, playing 107 snaps, easily the highest total among Patriots quarterbacks.
Newton had started every preseason game but didn’t play as much overall (39 snaps). He finished the preseason 14-of-21 for 162 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
In releasing Newton, who was a team captain, it clears a path for Jones to grow into more of a leadership role without having the presence of the former NFL Most Valuable Player behind him. . . .
Belichick had previously said he was looking for consistency and production over a period of time when evaluating quarterbacks — which naturally included practice and games. One breakthrough for Jones came when Newton missed three practices because of a COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding” last week, and Jones took over the team.
Jones was particularly impressive in one joint session with the New York Giants, continuing a theme of him running the traditional Patriots offense that includes empty formations, setting the offensive line protection at the line of scrimmage and checking out of plays when the situation called for it. Jones had said he felt like he was in a “game flow” that day.
On Sunday night, after the preseason finale, Jones said he was preparing as the starter but was ready for all possibilities. “I’m here to play any role I can play, help in any way I can, and I’m going to be ready whenever my time comes,” he said.
Jones has quickly earned respect from teammates, with veteran offensive tackle Trent Brown previously saying, “I think he can be special. To be so young, I think he makes some throws that not a lot of young guys can make.”

Everybody has praised Jones’s maturity, but starting as a rookie for a team with such a Super Bowl tradition? High pressure, man. Personally I had hoped that Jones would at least begin the season as Cam’s backup, then take a wait-and-see approach — if the team was winning with Cam, let him keep the job, but if it went the other way, give Mac a shot. I guess what Belichick saw during pre-season convinced him Mac was ready, and certainly it’s difficult to second-guess a coach with Belichick’s record, but still it’s a high-stakes gamble, and tremendous pressure on Jones.

New England won six Super Bowls with Tom Brady at QB, and last season was the first time in 20 years they didn’t make it to the playoffs. Patriots fans will expect that at the very least, Jones will take the team to the playoffs. The AFC East isn’t a powerhouse conference, and New England won seven games last season with Newton at QB, so if Jones can make enough of a difference to get the team to 10 or 11 wins, they’ve got a shot. Of course, Jones comes from Alabama, where anything less than an undefeated season and a national championship is considered failure, so it’s not like he hasn’t faced high expectations before.

The Patriots open the season Sept. 12 against Miami, where Jones’s former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa is the quarterback. That will be a shootout worth watching, especially for ’Bama fans. #RollTide!



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