Mac Jones had arguably his worst game as an NFL starter Sunday in Dallas. But it was just one game, right? He's still the New England Patriots' starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, right?
Head coach Bill Belichick confirmed Jones indeed will remain the team's starter despite Belichick benching his third-year QB in the fourth quarter of a 38-3 blowout loss to the Cowboys. As bad as Jones was Sunday, he's still a clear step above backups Bailey Zappe and Will Grier, so the QB1 job should be his for the rest of the season barring injury.
All that said, former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski believes Jones may have a shorter leash than we think.
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During an appearance Wednesday on FanDuel TV's "Up & Adams" show, Gronkowski suggested Jones may have committed a cardinal sin against the Cowboys -- and may lose his job if he commits that sin again.
"There are definitely some mistakes that Mac Jones has made that were probably brought up throughout the week not to make those mistakes," Gronkowski told host Kay Adams. "And when you make mistakes that are brought up throughout the week, Coach Belichick gets really frustrated with you.
"(Jones) got benched last year and Bailey Zappe went in. He just got benched (Sunday) when they were playing the Cowboys, and that's strike two. So, if he gets benched again and he makes another mistake that they've been going over throughout the week ... he's going to get benched a third time, and that will be strike three and he will officially be out as the quarterback of the New England Patriots."
That's a bold take -- especially from someone who played nine seasons under Belichick.
Jones' "first strike" came last season against the Chicago Bears in his first game back from an ankle injury. He completed just 3 of 6 passes for 13 yards with an interception before Belichick pulled him in favor of Zappe, who had led the Patriots to victory in the previous two games. That benching sparked far more controversy at the time, while this Sunday's game -- "strike two" in Gronkowski's view -- was already well out of hand before Belichick pulled the plug on Jones.
"There was no point in leaving him out there, so I took him out," Belichick said after the game.
It's hard to imagine Belichick moving on from Jones mid-season, even if he delivers another abysmal performance like the one we saw Sunday. But Gronkowski's point is well-taken: If Jones continues to make mistakes that directly harm the team -- mistakes that Belichick harped on in film sessions during the week -- then Belichick may be more inclined to find a new quarterback after the 2023 season.