Getty Based on the “interest” so far, an NFC contender is a potential “landing spot” for New England Patriots QB Mac Jones.
Mac Jones may not have a future with the New England Patriots beyond this season, but he could have trade value for an NFC contender based on past “reported interest.”
The possibility is suggested by ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who says Jones would “theoretically have trade value” if the Pats were to replace him as the starting quarterback in 2024. Barnwell named the San Francisco 49ers “as an obvious landing spot given reports of Kyle Shanahan’s interest before the Niners drafted Trey Lance.”
Trading three first-round picks to take Lance third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft didn’t work out for the 49ers. Lance is now with the Dallas Cowboys, but it’s telling that head coach Kyle Shanahan was interested in Jones, the polar opposite of a dual-threat QB.
Shanahan’s interest means there may be a way for the Patriots to salvage some of the first-round investment they made in Jones. The latter’s future appears to lie elsewhere after head coach Bill Belichick dropped the No. 10 pick in favor of Bailey Zappe and the Week 10 game against the Indianapolis Colts is on the line.
With the team sitting at 2-8, Belichick’s own future becoming murkier by the day, and a potential QB controversy brewing, now is the perfect time for the Patriots to explore the market that exists for Jones.
Mac Jones is an interesting addition for the 49ers
Mobility has often been key for quarterbacks running the Shanahan offense. Moving bags, rollout passes and RPOs are the basics of the system.
Jones isn’t exactly known for his accomplishments in New England, but he does have solid experience running RPOs. He is a known fan of run-pass options from his time at Alabama.
In 2022, Evan Lazar of Patriots.com noted, “Jones had the third-highest rate of his passes coming from RPO programs (19%) in the 2021 quarterback class. Additionally, in his final season with the Crimson Tide, Jones lit up defenses with these schemes: 73 of 78, 890 yards, ten touchdowns and zero interceptions for a near-perfect passer rating of 153.8.”
Shanahan’s love of RPOs helped Brock Purdy go from being “Mr. “Irrelevant” in the 2022 NFL Draft, being one of the most efficient quarterbacks in football. Plays like this one from Brad of TheSFNiners show how run-look concepts create quick throws and easy yards for Purdy.
This RPO from 49ers Brock Purdy is DIRTY
This is 100% run for the OL so Brock needs to get it out there ASAP and pass it straight to Christian McCaffrey pic.twitter.com/OIADPqoyrc
— Brad (@Graham_SFN) January 17, 2023
The Patriots didn’t do enough of that to help Jones succeed. Things would be different in San Francisco, where he would come into contact with Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey.
“Patriots didn’t take advantage of Jones’ strengths”
The Patriots did not do justice to Jones in terms of content or personnel. While Barnwell noted that offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien “has implemented some of the Alabama flourishes that helped Jones excel as a college quarterback, there aren’t many easy solutions for this offense for the third-year pro.”
Barnwell urged O’Brien and the Pats before the start of this season to let Jones use more RPOs.
This is a reasonable request since Jones only completed 32 RPOs as a rookie, according to Pro Football Reference. The number has been declining since then, with Jones making 19 RPOs as a sophomore and 25 in 10 games this season.
This scheme doesn’t suit Jones, but even more than X’s and O’s he struggles because of a lack of talent among the skill players. Belichick has struggled to recruit quality wide receivers, a problem exacerbated by star player Kendrick Bourne tearing his ACL in Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins.
Other newcomers, like wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Mike Gesicki, struggled to get snaps. It doesn’t help that Jones barely got enough time behind a crumbling offensive line that surrendered five sacks in the first half against the Colts, including this one of Tyquan Lewis.
Jones is also responsible for many of the Patriots’ problems this season. He made shaky decisions and failed to protect the football.
However, when a team uses the 15th overall pick to select a quarterback, as the Pats did for Jones in 2021, the responsibility falls on the franchise to provide the signal-caller with everything he needs. Belichick’s omission is the main reason the 71-year-old is rumored to be out of time after this season.
A clean break from both Belichick and Jones is increasingly looking like the best thing for the Patriots after 2023.
James Dudko covers the New York Giants, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens for Heavy.com. He has covered the NFL and world soccer since 2011, with bylines at FanSided, Prime Time Sports Talk and Bleacher Report, before moving to Heavy in 2021. More about James Dudko
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