Mac Jones is not a sexy pick for the Patriots, but he's a smart one
By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports Columnist
You’ve most likely seen it by now. If you haven’t, you probably don’t sit on the sports internet all day long, and you probably lead a much healthier life than I do.
I’m referring, of course, to the iconic photo of Tom Brady at the 2000 NFL combine that is being compared to the iconic photo of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones smoking a cigar after winning the 2020 College Football National Championship.
Both men are not — how should I put this? Let’s just say they’re not exactly cut. They present with the body type of a guy named Chad who was the president of Beta in college, works for a hedge fund now and "doesn’t have time" to work out. A lot of people tweeted the picture when the Patriots drafted Jones on Thursday, but they were all more than two years late.
Because you know who tweeted it in 2019?
Mac Jones himself.
Look, I’ll be honest. I, a Pats fan who feels truly beaten down for the first time in 20 years, was hoping that Bill Belichick, the Dark Lord of Football, would find a way to snag Justin Fields. I wanted Belichick to trade up. I wanted the Pats to be bold, to go after Fields, the quarterback in this draft whose statistics and athleticism came closest to rivaling those of the No. 1 pick, Trevor Lawrence.
In fact, I was livid that Fields slipped as far as 10. It didn’t seem fair — the media narrative around Fields this spring took a sharp turn since January, when it was almost universally assumed that he would be the No. 2 pick. Not only did he play incredibly well ...
... but also he did it with badly bruised ribs. And then he went on to play in a national championship.
Pats fans were left to wait, too. I waited so hard that I stress-ate stale Reese’s peanut butter cups leftover from Easter. They were marshmallow-flavored, so they are terrible to begin with and even worse a month later. When Fields went to the Bears, I swore loudly at my television.
Thoughts and prayers to a man who could be a generational talent and has to play for Matt Nagy.
But I digress. Back to the matter at hand: Mac Jones.
I don’t hate this pick by any means. Jones has been described as an incredibly quick learner — he taught Alabama’s offense to new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien when O’Brien came in from the Texans. Scouts say Jones is very hardworking, and his teammates seem to love him. These are clearly reasons he draws comparisons to Brady beyond their somewhat schlubby pictures. Brady has won 15,000 Super Bowls, so it’s difficult to say this with a straight face, but both are accurate passers who make smart decisions under pressure.
But I just wasn’t excited about the pick.
I was texting with my friend and fellow Pats fan Chris Brockman of the "Rich Eisen Show," and he put it best when he said, "I wanted to be INSPIRED. I wanted to feel EXCITEMENT from the position. I’m gonna trash the pick on the air tomorrow but reserve the right to talk myself into him around Week 6."
I think I’ve started to talk myself into it sooner than that, though. Many analysts are saying that Jones fits the Patriots' scheme the best. Jones himself spoke warmly about Josh McDaniels' offense.
Belichick and Alabama coach Nick Saban are very close, so you know they've discussed this guy. I'm going to trust Bill even if he didn't use his dark powers the way I wanted him to. The Pats didn't have to move up to get their guy and snagged Jones at 15.
Second of all, Jones’ Twitter background is a picture of him with his teammates cheesing under the entrance of a building lot at night. They’re standing around, a bunch of kids, looking kind of shy and goofy but very much at ease with one another.
I know it seems like a small thing, but it says a lot about a quarterback that he would make that his cover photo, where he isn’t the focus and acknowledges his team. And while it’s hard to tell much from social media, his former Alabama teammate and current Patriot Damien Harris was excited to welcome Jones to the same team once again.
Jones said they’re very close.
In the past year, I’ve written a lot about how important culture is. I believe that leadership makes a huge difference in how people treat one another — that comes from the top down. A great leader, be it a quarterback, a coach, a GM or even your boss at your software company, can inspire.
We saw Cam Newton win over the Patriots locker room last year, and hopefully, Jones has the same mentality. The team didn’t do as well as it or fans wanted, and with many of its best defensive players out due to COVID, New England missed the playoffs.
But that’s not all on Newton — maybe with a few more defensive stops, the tides would’ve turned. Now that could happen, given that the glue of the defense, Dont’a Hightower, is returning along with several others. Newton could be a great guy for Jones to learn from. Plus, their first names are palindromes.
It also seems like their astrological signs are compatible, so that bodes well?
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Newton nicknamed all of his teammates, and I can’t wait to find out what nickname he gives Jones. Maybe a new-age Mac Daddy Santa. Just a suggestion.
I watched a lot of Jones’ media conferences from college before the draft, and he seemed, well, fun. He joked around with reporters and always made sure to credit the exceptional talent around him (five of his Alabama teammates were also drafted in the first round this year).
But it’s easy for an individual player's talent to get lost when surrounded by so much of it. Maybe I’m just talking myself into this, but perhaps Jones didn’t get the hype he deserved because he had only one year as the full-time starter to show what he was made of after playing behind Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts.
So fellow Pats fans — think about this pick as if you're buying a car. It’s more fun to get something beautiful with a sexy engine, but maybe the reliable Camry has more pickup than you originally thought.
Or maybe it’s a Bugatti with the wrong logo on it. And maybe it can last for a long time.
Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and co-host of "The People's Sports Podcast" for FOX Sports. She's honored to represent the constantly neglected Boston area in sports media, loves talking to sports fans about their feelings and is happiest eating a hotdog in a ballpark or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.