National Football League
Mac Jones-Matt Patricia dynamic grows more awkward, even in win
National Football League

Mac Jones-Matt Patricia dynamic grows more awkward, even in win

Updated Dec. 13, 2022 9:05 a.m. ET

Mac Jones was furious … again.

The New England Patriots quarterback was clearly displeased with his coaching staff against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. The Patriots eked out a 27-13 win over the Cardinals, who lost Kyler Murray in the first quarter to what the team fears could be a season-ending knee injury. 

But New England’s offense looks no less broken than it did a week ago. Jones' frustrations seemed more notable than the Patriots beating a depleted Arizona team on Monday night. It marked the second straight week that we've seen Jones yelling at his coaches.

There were several points in both the second and third quarters where Jones was clearly frustrated with the Patriots offense. He let out a loud f-bomb as he walked back to the sideline after New England needlessly burnt a timeout on its opening drive of the third quarter. Jones threw up his arms at the sideline after throwing the ball away in the red zone. And, most notably, he appeared to get dismissive with the coaching staff while walking back to the huddle.


"This is an emotional game and everyone feeds off emotion," Jones told ESPN after the game. "And I think at times we’re too flat. That’s what I try to do … motivate my guys. Shout out to everyone on my team for responding."

That's one way to spin it.

It just doesn’t seem like Jones had the patience for Patriots offensive coordinator Matt Patricia, whose playcalling has been conservative and unimaginative. Patricia has been reticent to call downfield passing concepts. He has struggled with spacing for his receivers. And he has stunted Jones' development this season.

It’s no surprise that he became the butt of jokes on Twitter and even on ESPN broadcasts.

During the "Manning Cast" on ESPN2, comedian Keegan-Michael Key mocked Patricia’s patented pencil — which the coach always keeps over his ear — by calling it a pacifier. Eli Manning threw shade at Patricia with some analysis on the Patriots’ opening drive of the second half. After they picked up 12 yards on a simple concept, Manning commented that play is in every playbook, including those at the high school level.

"They ran that play last week," Manning said. "They had a guy open. It's like their one good concept."

Their one good concept? No wonder Jones is frustrated.

A week after Jones was spotted telling Patricia that the "quick game sucks," that’s exactly what the Patriots offensive playcaller hammered in his playbook. Jones ran more screens than he’d ever done in a single game during his NFL career.

The Patriots second-year QB didn’t seem thrilled about throwing so many screen passes when asked about it after the game.

"A play is a play," Jones told ESPN. "At the end of the day, you’ve gotta have a game plan to win. And that was our game plan. And it worked."

But the team's playcalling has not been the only point of frustration for Jones this season. Earlier in the year, there was frustration between Jones’ camp and the Patriots coaching staff with how they handled his return from an ankle injury. There has been obvious animosity between Jones and the staff throughout the year, and in this primetime matchup, the frustration came out on the sideline, on the field, in and out of the huddle, and after crucial plays.

During the third quarter, the awkward dynamic between Patricia and Jones seemed like it might hit a boiling point. But just when everything looked messy for New England, the team's defense blew the game open, with a forced fumble and scoop-and-score touchdown. 

Then, on the Cardinals' ensuing drive, Patriots cornerback Marcus Jones came up with a timely interception.

It’s quite fitting that the defense would save Patricia, isn’t it? 

Because he is — or was? — a defensive coach, by trade. That’s what made it so bizarre to see him running the offense this year.

After the interception, the Patriots put together their most impressive drive in weeks — partially a product of a busted coverage that led to a 39-yard pickup from Jones to tight end Hunter Henry

It’s not like Patricia designed something brilliant. He simply called the play that young Madden players like to use ad nauseam: Four verts. It simply sends every one of the pass-catchers straight downfield. Nobody loved that playcall more than 12-year-old me.

After Henry’s big catch, rookie running back Pierre Strong punched in a 3-yard touchdown. Then Jones’ frustrations softened. He showed Patricia some love on the sideline as the two shared a friendly embrace. Patricia even smiled. 

But Jones didn’t smile or stay with Patricia for long. He appeared to leave Patricia with the message: Let’s run it back. The Patriots QB wasn’t content. He wanted to keep the offense rolling.

But New England didn’t score another point.

The bottom line is this: The Patriots are in trouble. Yes, even after a win.

Jones and Patricia are struggling their way through this season with what seems like a strained relationship. And it’s hard to have optimism given that Jones appears to be playing substantially worse this year under Patricia than last year under Josh McDaniels, now the head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders

And given the Patriots travel to Las Vegas next weekend to take on McDaniels and the Raiders, everyone knows what the top talking point around the NFL will be: Can Jones rise above this strained relationship with Patricia and lead the Patriots to the playoffs? Because right now, New England is the No. 7 seed in the AFC — and that’s despite Patricia, not because of him.

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Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.


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