Patriots Refusal To Commit To Mac Jones Is Another Blow To 2021 QB Class

Bill Belichick may not have questions about the New England Patriots quarterback situation privately, but he’s certainly feeding those in public.

On Tuesday morning, hours after he played both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe as part of a pre-planned rotation against the Chicago Bears, Belichick declined to explain who starts for his team going forward.

The Patriots play at the New York Jets on Sunday.

Belichick was even vague about whether Jones, who is recovering from an ankle injury, would continue to be the starter once he’s 100 percent healthy.

“Again, that’s a hypothetical question, so let’s see where that is and what that is,” Belichick said.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick must decide between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe has his quarterback.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has declined to name Mac Jones the starting quarterback, even when healthy.

Patriots Have No Announced Clear Starting QB

This is where anyone with a brain understands if Jones was playing well and had won over his coach’s complete confidence in the last year, there would be no need to even question the situation.

Because, simply, the 2021 first-round pick with one year of experience to his credit and a solid rookie season on his resume, should be the guy over a fourth-round rookie.

But Belichick isn’t ready to go there and rightly so. Jones simply hasn’t taken the big leap expected of big-time quarterbacks playing in their second season.

The truth is, none of the first-round quarterbacks from the 2021 draft have.

Trevor Lawrence so far hasn’t.

Zach Wilson so far hasn’t.

Trey Lance is out for the year.

Justin Fields, who helped the Bears beat New England on Monday night, is more a running threat than passing threat.

Jones? Nope.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been unable to take second-year leap.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has not been able to take big second-year leap so far. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

No Second-Year Leap So Far For 2021 QB Class

So if you’re searching for a Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert type of second-year leap from the 2021 first-rounders, keep searching.

Lawrence, it must be said, has come the closest. He’s undoubtedly improved, but hasn’t exactly taken a leap. And there’s still hope, particularly in Jacksonville, that he will develop into a very good quarterback.

He certainly has had moments of clarity such as the back-to-back games he had against the Colts and Chargers last month. He threw 5 TD passes and completed nearly 77 percent of his passes in those two games combined.

But he also had a clunker game against Houston on Oct. 9 and he definitely hasn’t lifted his team on his shoulders as one might hope from a No. 1 overall selection. The Jaguars have lost four consecutive games and Lawrence has thrown 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in those.

Wilson missed the first three games with a knee injury and the Jets have not lost in the four games he’s started. That last part is impressive.

But that speaks to the club playing good defense and running the ball and playing good complementary football more than Wilson leading any charge.

Wilson has been more a featured player than a star. He hasn’t thrown a TD pass or an interception the last three games. He’s passed for under 125 yards in each of the last two games.

Wilson’s completion percentage for the season is 57.4. His quarterback rating is 73.6.

So no second-year leap so far.

Lance didn’t get a chance to show whether he was ready for stardom or not. His regular-season opener against Chicago was unremarkable. Then he injured his ankle after only three passes in the second game and that ended his season.

The 49ers traded three first-round picks before the 2021 draft to get into position to draft Lance but will have to wait until 2023 to see if that investment begins to pay dividends.

No second-year leap for Justin Fields so far this season.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields has much athletic potential but so far has failed to take a second-year leap. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Justin Fields Promising But No Second-Year Leap

Fields is perhaps the most scrutinized quarterback of this first-round class. Chicago, starved for a franchise quarterback, cheered his every move during a rookie season in which he initially didn’t start.

This year, under a new coaching staff, Fields has already helped his team win more games in his seven starts (3) than he did in his 10 starts last year (2).

But it hasn’t been pretty.

Fields has not shown himself to be an accurate passer, completing only 55.9 percent of his passes, which is actually lower than last season’s 58.9.

And while he’s a significant threat running the ball — over 80 rushing yards in each of his last two games — his passing has been inconsistent.

Fields has as much potential and raw athletic ability as any one of the first-round quarterbacks but he’s nowhere close to harnessing that into great quarterback play yet. Maybe by year’s end. Maybe next year.

But not so far.

Mac Jones has failed to take second-year leap for the New England Patriots.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has struggled so far this season. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Rough Times For New England Patriots’ Mac Jones

Finally, there’s Jones. He had a solid rookie season (the folks in New England thought it was great).

There was talk of a big jump this year.

But the season so far has been a disappointment, with the ankle injury that is threatening to detour him and those six interceptions that make the narrative he protects the football seem suspect.

Jones has the lowest quarterback rating of any 2021 first-round quarterbacks.

That and his injury status is among the reasons he shared time with rookie Bailey Zappe Monday night in a loss to Chicago.

“A lot of things that went into that,” Belichick said Tuesday. “I’ll just leave it as we did what we felt was best for the team and the players involved. Obviously it didn’t work out but that was the decision.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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