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Keyshawn Johnson Calls Mac Jones 'a Problem' for the Patriots Because He's Not Josh Allen

Gregory Payan. Shutterstock Images.

Every so often, on rare occasions, I get accused of being a homer. No, it's true, hard as that may be to believe. 

So when, say, the Patriots select the fifth quarterback in the draft and he not only leads all rookies in his class in virtually every, single passing category but also takes his team into the playoffs, and I consider that a win, I'm accused of overrating and overhyping him. Because, I suppose, I have a track record of being generally positive about a team that has been impossibly successful for 21 years. And I can admit that's been my default setting. It'll have that effect on a person, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of optimism-winning-me being proven right. And while I haven't 100% correct (see Jarrett Stidham, N'Keal Harry, Cam Newton), I'll put the track record of my positivity bias up against the critics negativity bias any day of the week. 

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And the latest battle in this forever war is, as I just suggested, Mac Jones. I consider him to be the solution to this franchise's quarterback situation for the forseeable future and the major piece they needed in order to get back into Super Bowl contention. But a former No. 1 overall pick begs to differ:

Source - On The Greg Hill Show Friday, Keyshawn Johnson downplayed [Mac] Jones’ ability to one day lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl. In Johnson’s mind, Jones just isn’t good enough.

“He’s a good little piece to what New England wanted to do. When he had to play quarterback, it didn’t work out in their favor,” Johnson said. …

“They protected him as much as they could and got enough out of that. And because he looks the part like the New England quarterbacks of the world — the Scott Zolak types — they think they got something,” Johnson said. “He’s a good player, but he ain’t not Josh Allen. That’s a problem for them.” …

“We can cover it however want to make it look, but I ain’t no damn fool. I know what I see,” Johnson said.

What Keyshawn is saying here is exactly how the Mac Jones debate is going to play out. Now, next year, and for as long as it takes for him to hang Banner 7 above the south end zone at Gillette. The doubters cited his lack of athleticism when he was going into the draft, after he went to New England, when he was in a camp battle for the QB1 job with Cam Newton, all through the season and beyond. 

When I was calling for the Pats to take him, I said as much. That how you see Jones is a referendum on what you think of how the position has evolved. If you think that in order for a QB to win, he has to be a freakishly gifted specimen who can make plays outside of structure and turn negative plays into 40 yard gains, you want no part of this guy. And the shorthand for that school of thought has become "Josh Allen." 

Which is fine. Allen is impressive as hell and pitched two perfect games against Jones' own team. He is what is standing between New England and the next AFC championship. The obstacle in your way becomes your path, and all that. But there's a world of difference between saying "Jones isn't as athletic as Allen," which is correct, and "Jones can't win because he's not as athletic as Allen," which doesn't reflect reality. 

Who besides Allen are the most astonishing athletes at the position? Patrick Mahomes, obviously. Aaron Rodgers, sure. He's the MVP. Russell Wilson, I'll grant you that. Lamar Jackson, another MVP. Taysom Hill. A few others. And what do they all have in common? 

They are all right where Mac Jones is this weekend. Home. Watching. Because they quarterbacks that are still standing are nobody's idea of Decathletes. 

Matthew Stafford is 34 years old and is coming off a season with 43 rushing yards and 1.3 YPA, both career lows (minimum 4 games). According to Pro Football Focus, he's credited with just four scrambles (defined as undesigned runs) in his 20 starts this season. Only Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger had fewer among full time starters. And yet his passer rating under pressure was 80.1, good for 6th best in the league. 

Joe Burrow, who is also reminding no one of 1994 Allen in terms of rolling pockets and tearing through defenders like 2011 Gronk, led the league in passer rating under pressure, with 99.6. Even though his scrambled totaled just 15, which was 12th. 

Comparing both of these QBs to Jones, the rookie is listed at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds. Stafford is 6-3, 220. Burrow is 6-4, 221. Put the three of them together and no one is going to mistake Jones for Frodo Baggins standing next to Aragorn and Boromir. Granted, he could stand an offseason or two in an NFL conditioning program. But calling him "a problem" because he's not Allen is just bod-shaming him. 

And as we go into the Super Bowl weekend, I'm finding myself more and more seeing Burrow as the perfect analog to Jones. Both in terms of size, but also his ability to read defenses, process information fast, make quick decisions and get the ball out with accuracy. Only without enjoying the spoils of having Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd to win matchups (though the Patriots should be working on that). 

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For those who want to again accuse me of being too optimistic or getting way ahead of myself comparing Jones and Burrow, you might be right. Based on their rookie numbers, it's not an unfair comp at all:

Jones started 18 games and the only time he missed a down was the three times he had run up the score enough for one day and it was time for the human victory cigar that is Brian Hoyer. Insist all you want on a passer who can leave the pocket and run out of the building and you'll get no argument from me. But someone who is about the win his first Super Bowl doesn't fit that description. And the won who won his seventh last year didn't either. As long as Mac Jones can win the way these guys have, he'll be a great "problem" to have.