John Tomase

What long-term legacy will Mac Jones leave with Patriots?

The Patriots are experiencing a reality check at the NFL's most important position.

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I put the question to my brother: How is history going to remember Mac Jones?

"History is not going to remember Mac Jones," he replied. (Can you tell we're related?)

To the extent we think of Jones at all a decade from now, we'll be dumbfounded to recall how much time we spent, and how many excuses we concocted, contorting ourselves into believing he'd lead the next great Patriots team.

Mac would soar if only he had weapons! Mac missed the playoffs because of that one time he got saddled with bad coaches! Mac didn't reach his ceiling of perennial Pro Bowler because Bill Belichick never gave him a hug!

Or there's the more pedestrian answer, which is that Mac Jones was simply never very good.

It's time to read up on Tommy Hodson, Marc Wilson, and Mike Taliaferro, quarterbacks only the hardest-core Patriots fans would even remember, because Mac Jones is one of them. I had more fun watching Zo unholster his six-shooters for a couple of weeks in 1992.

Jones is what happens when the universe grants you the greatest player in the history of the sport for an unprecedented two decades of dominance and then decides the scales need balancing. The follow-up is a quarterback who can't run, throws batting practice fastballs, and gets happy feet like the world's most skittish penguin.

No matter how much you squint (or drink), you can't make him good, but you delude yourself anyway, because the human brain is a complicated piece of machinery, and it takes time to rewire it to recognize that most quarterbacks are not, in fact, Tom Brady, and you are not, it turns out, entitled to an eternity of greatness.

The message is finally registering, because welcome to life as everyone else. Just as the Dolphins suffered through two decades of A.J. Feeley, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, Chad Henne, and Matt Moore between Dan Marino and Tua Tagovailoa, the Patriots may only be two (of many?) JAGs into the post-Brady years. Cam Newton came and went, but Jones is the classic case of a bad team marrying itself to a milquetoast quarterback based on hope rather than reality, and then watching him slide like Bernie Brewer into the tank.

Jones's regression into some kind of helpless Benjamin Button infant has been painful, and you can't help but feel for the guy – to an extent. Yes, he deserves a representative offensive line and something better than stink, stank, stunk on the outside, but his periodic displays of petulance never felt remotely earned, no matter how incompetent his coaches.

It's one thing for a Hall of Famer like Peyton Manning to flap and scowl, but it's quite another when it's the fettuccini-armed Jones, whose persona veers too frequently into tennis-brat territory.

But what's any of it really matter? Jones's impact on the franchise will ultimately be as glancing as the brush of a falling leaf. If he's remembered for anything, it will probably be hastening the departure of Belichick, who pushed all the right buttons for 20 years and now can't even find the console.

Belichick may have never wanted Jones, but owner Robert Kraft did, certain that nothing would speed the team's rebuild faster than a quarterback on a rookie deal. Whatever the savings, it's costing the Patriots prestige, their primetime future likely limited to some horrible Thursday night matchup vs. the Panthers that puts Al Michaels to sleep and sets social media on fire.

No one saw this coming when the Patriots selected Jones 15th overall out of Alabama in 2021, but that's on us. Why should the Patriots avoid the cosmic correction that generally follows a generational quarterback, whether it's John Elway to Brian Griese in Denver, Troy Aikman to Quincy Carter in Dallas, or Terry Bradshaw to Mark Malone in Pittsburgh? This is how it usually works, the successor falling woefully short.

So we'll add Jones to the pile and hope for better out of the next guy. In the meantime, it's hard to use the word "legacy" with a player of such marginal talent and overall inconsequentiality, but if Jones has one, it may very well be this: he led us over the abyss and into the post-Brady dark ages.

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