New England Patriots

Bill O'Brien gives passionate defense of Mac Jones: ‘Blame me'

O'Brien took accountability for the Patriots offense's failures this season.

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New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has performed well below expectations this season, there's no debating that.

But the struggles the Patriots offense has experienced in 2023 are not all Jones' fault.

That was the message conveyed by Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien on Tuesday. In a video call with reporters, O'Brien took blame for the lackluster output from Jones and his offense as a whole.

“What I see is that he’s a very bright guy, he works very hard, he’s passionate about the game,” O’Brien said about Jones. “Things haven’t gone great for him this year. I don’t think that he’s the No. 1 guy to blame. If you want to blame anybody, blame me. I’m the one that designs it and it’s not going very well.

“Look, at the end of the day, can he execute better? Are there things that he can do better? Sure. But there’s things that all of us have to do better to put a winning product on the field, and right now that’s not what it is. What I see is a very confident guy, that’s a very bright guy, a very hard-working guy that’ll continue to work hard and try to improve on the things he needs to improve on.”

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The Patriots have started Jones in all 11 games this season, even though he's been benched in four of them and the team has a 2-9 record entering Sunday's Week 13 matchup versus the Los Angeles Chargers. If O'Brien feels Jones shouldn't play, is that a call he can make?

"I don't make those calls. There's a chain of command," O'Brien explained. "The chain of command is Robert Kraft at the top, and then it's Bill Belichick, and then I would say the assistant coaches are somewhere down in here. So within that chain of command, especially on the coaching staff, do we have a lot of discussions? Yeah, I talked about that a couple weeks ago, those discussions are very private.

"What we need to do is do a good job of figuring out how we can get the offense to get better, each player to get better, to understand the detail of the play, whether it's the quarterback, the left guard, the wide receiver, the tight end, the running back, it doesn't matter. All of us coaches and players alike have to figure out how to improve, and that's what we're trying to do. I know it doesn't look great, but we're still going to keep trying to do that."

The Patriots are the league's second-lowest scoring team at 13.5 points per game. Only the New York Giants, who beat the Patriots 10-7 last Sunday, rank lower at 13.3 points per game. New England also ranks 28th in yards per play (4.7) and 25th in total yards per game (293.5).

O'Brien's arrival earlier this year was supposed to help a bad offense rediscover the form it enjoyed during Jones' rookie season of 2021. So far, that hasn't happened. In fact, a strong case could be made that the offense is far worse.

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