The Patriots are 2-4. That's unacceptable. I'm not going to sit here and try to polish that turd. Trying to put a happyface emoji on 2-4 is the kind of loser talk we used to do back in the Dark Times of Dick MacPherson. And I'll not damage my well-deserved reputation as a fair and impartial analyst of this team by putting a positive spin on that. I've worked too hard for too long to establish my objectivity to simply throw it away now. I have integrity after all.
That said, you don't have to go back to McPherson or even Rod Rust to find a time when the Patriots were 2-4. That was their record in 2000, which was, of course, Bill Belichick's first season as he was tunneling his new franchise out of Salary Cap Shawshank. And a few years before that, they started 2-5 in Bill Parcells' third year. Those teams finished 5-11 and 6-10 respectively. And there's not a man, woman or child among us who's going to tolerate that level of failure, least of all me.
But there are a few similarities between the 2000 Pats and the 1995 team. One, they each had Hall of Fame coaches. Two, they each went to the Super Bowl the following season, winning one. And three, and here's the point I'm building toward, they each had the one thing that you absolutely cannot function without in the modern NFL: Franchise quarterbacks.
Which brings us to Mac Jones. Whatever else you think about the prospects for the 2021 Patriots to make a run to the playoffs after Buffalo lost, putting them two games out of both the division lead and the Wild Card race with 11 to play, you have to concede they've found the biggest piece of the puzzle. If they somehow managed to be 4-2 right now, but were left with a huge La Brea-sized sinkhole lining up behind center every down, there would be exponentially more reason to abandon hope.
Instead what they have is not just the best rookie quarterback in what has been regarded as the most impressive QB class in almost 40 years, but a guy who outplayed Tom Brady in the most intense regular season game of our times. And who then had to match the league's best offense punch-for-punch on Sunday when his defense couldn't make a stop and his special teams had a punt blocked. One of those games came down to a kick clanging off the upright. The other was an overtime loss. Those don't count as Ws. But Mac Jones most certainly does, no matter how you look at it.
Though I'll suggest you look at it through the eyes of the analytics mathletes who look at it for a living. Pro Football Focus (paywall) has Jones' performance Sunday graded not just higher than Dak Prescott's 454-yard, three-touchdown epic, but second highest among all quarterbacks in the league for Week 6:
And that holds up after Monday Night Football. He was second only to Carson Wentz in terms of Overall grade and Passing grade. PFF also makes the case that he improved in one area his (admittedly few) critics have ripped him for, deep balls:
And, while the offensive line has at best struggled (the Dallas game) and at worst been an unmitigated disaster (New Orleans), Jones, the analytics show he's holding up when his protection doesn't. When under pressure Jones:
- Has the 4th lowest time to throw at just 2.93 seconds per attempt
- Has the 2nd highest completion percentage, at 60.0%
- Is tied for 4th in touchdowns
- Has a 70.9 passer rating, which, while middle of the pack in the league, is higher than MVP candidate Prescott and just behind Patrick Mahomes
All while (according to Pro Football Reference) being the eighth most blitzed (66) and second most hit (27) QB in the NFL.
Just as impressive to me is how, even leading a team that's had a wildly inconsistent running game, Jones has established himself as a very good play action passer, with a passer rating of 103.6 and a completion percentage of 77.6%, which is third best in the league.
All of this of course, is when you do compare him to the league. When you compare him to the other rookies, it's unfair. Like fishing with dynamite.
The only category where he doesn't lead the QB Class of 2021 is in interceptions. But he does lead in:
- Completion %
- 1st downs
So while I repeat, just in case I didn't make it clear at the beginning, I'm Mr. Objectivity here and will not try to put a shine on a sneaker, the Patriots need a lot of work but they've already established that they have the best quarterback in his class thus far. As well as a solid and ascending pro who should inspire every confidence he's going to become the QB to replace the irreplaceable QB.
Things might be bad and all. But just be sure and appreciate how much worse they'd be if Mac Jones wasn't as good as he has. Now it the coaching staff would just recognize that and start letting him off the leash a little more, their record will turn around, I promise you.