You know, if there was one positive about Tom Brady's #Braxit in 2020, just one, it was the hope I'd be spared from ever having to burn another calorie interpreting the body language of an angry, disgruntled quarterback. I mean, say what you will about Cam Newton - and I certainly had issues with him when he was throwing a football - but his attitude was never in question in his one year in Foxboro. Not for a second. It still isn't. How could you not love this guy's outlook on ... everything?
And yet, here we are. Doing the same thing with 2022 Mac Jones we were doing with Brady from about 2017 on. Obsessing over the way he carries himself. The images he projects to the world. The messages he sends to his coaches and teammates. Both the non-verbal and the very, very, highly, extremely verbal:
Jones's obvious displeasure has become the over-arching theme of the season. Unless something dramatically positive happens, it's going to be what 2022 is remembered for by future Patriots historians. Reducto ad absurdium. In the way the whole 2008 season has been short-handed to the Bernard Pollard hit on Brady's knee and 2017 is remembered for Malcolm Butler crying on the sideline.
Whether or not Bill Belichick has a huge problem with Jones's histrionics (I can't imagine him being OK with it), Julian Edelman for one is fucking fed all the way up about it.
On Inside the NFL, Brandon Marshall tried to explain away Jones's inability to tackle Chandler Jones on the last play of the Raiders game, which gave Edelman an opening to vent. “You know what, he also doesn’t practice the antics after plays and waving off coaches and all these little pissy faces and stuff," he said. "Like he doesn’t practice that, and he does it."
I pause here to insert the late, great Kevin Meany's "Get That Puss off Your Face" to lighten the mood of what's a been a fairly dark and negative Patriots blog:
And Vince Wilfork agrees:
Boston.com - “I’m tired of that, honestly. I’m tired of it,” Wilfork said of Jones’s antics. “You’re the leader of this team. You’re a quarterback. So you can’t be frustrated every single week, every single play. I don’t care if you’re getting the play called in late or whatever it may be. At the end of the day, you have to show some poise because you do operate the ship. You’re the head of the ship when you’re out there.
“Control what you can control,” Wilfork added. “That’s all you can do. But I’m tired of seeing him throwing a fit.”
Whatever my, Belichick's, Edelman's, and Wilfork's interpretations of all the fits Jones has been pitching, he had the opportunity to explain it at his press conference, and apologized for nothing. In fact, he leaned into it:
Q: How hard is it to not get frustrated on a weekly basis when you're not seeing results and remain positive?
MJ: I think it goes back to just trusting the process of everything and doing whatever you can do to become a great football player. Eventually that will show up on film. So a lot of things as an offense, it's 11 guys and you have to try to push everybody as a quarterback to do the right thing and make sure we're all on the same page. We've done that at times. But just getting that consistency. Obviously with myself, too. Just making sure all of my P's and Q's. Then it takes everybody else as well to hop on the train. It takes everybody. We're working together, communicating really well, which is important between the players. At the end of the day, we have to go out there and compete for each other and play because we love this game. So we have a respect for each other in our room as an offense. That's the most important part.
Q: Obviously football is a pretty emotional game. We've heard even Bill Belichick say that playing with emotion is good. But on the broadcast again the other day during the goal line situation they talked again about how you're emoting a lot. Do you have to be careful that when you do get a little emotional that you're not like showing up your teammates and coaches and stuff?
MJ: I think it's a big part of the game, playing with passion and emotion. I think the best players on every team do that. You can't let it affect your next play, that's the biggest thing. Which it hasn't. It's all about fixing the things that pop up in a game, right? So sometimes when they're reoccurring, we just want to fix them and move on to the next play. That's something that definitely that's who I am and that's how I've always been. I want to just be a great teammate however I can be and be a leader too. You want to show positivity as well. When we do things well, I try to do that. We want to do more things well and try to fix the things that we're working through. That's all you can do. It's a game. It shows that you care. I think we have guys that care on our team. I definitely care. So that's important to me.
And there you have it. Like that guy in a job interview being asked what his greatest shortcoming is, Jones's answer is he cares too much. Sometimes he takes the job too seriously. He's a victim of his own high standards. His desire for perfection. Got it.
All of which I'd be fine with if his approach produced better results. I'd be willing to give him more benefit of more doubts if there was a track record of his tirades turning into drives that finished in the end zone. That latest one during the 1st & goal from the 2 on Sunday led to a false start penalty negating a touchdown and produced a field goal against a defense that had given up a TD 14 straight times in those situations. He talks about how he's just trying to be a leader, and that's great. But his team hasn't responded positively to his angry rants all season. His stated goal of "fix them and move onto the next play" isn't working. So it seems to me the thing that most needs a "fix" is that.
Group dynamics are a complex thing. They're hard to define, but understanding them is essential if you're ever going to achieve a bloody thing in this life. To use the cliche the people who practice recreational outrage on Twitter love to pull out when a joke offends them, you have to read the room. Losing your composure is never leadership. While you're screaming at your coaches, the other 10 guys in your huddle are left standing there waiting for you to gather yourself and inspire confidence the next play will work. It seems to me that's a lot of energy to expend that could better be spent focusing on the next play.
I'm still a Team Mac Guy, and will remain so. All this is something we knew about him coming into the draft because Nick Saban admitted he had to talk to him about not flying off the handle when things didn't go right. He's still young. This season has been the most adversity he's faced in his college and pro career. And I truly believe soon enough he'll mature to the point this stops being a recurring theme. I'm all about the caring and the passion. But if you don't channel it properly, you're just a hysterical kid with a pissy face.