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People are Seriously Discussing the Idea the Patriots are Looking to Trade Mac Jones, and I'm Here for the Insanity of it All

Maddie Meyer. Getty Images.

Let's try a thought experiment on this holiday Monday, shall we? 

The situation is this: An NFL team has what is, for them, a down year after losing the best player in franchise history, signing a replacement who was out of football, a lack of cap room and the little matter of a worldwide epidemic. That relative failure results in one of the highest draft positions they've had in decades, where they draft the replacement's replacement. A guy who came from a feeder program that was just coming off an undefeated season in which said player had a record breaking performance leading his team to the National Championship. As rookie, he wins the starting quarterback's job, wins 10 games and leads his new team back to the postseason. Then, after a step-back season in his second year, the football world is lousy with talk the team is fed up with this player's failures and is actively shopping him on the trade market. Got it?

The task before you is to guess which team we're talking about. And if you presented this scenario to one million Americans, a million of them would say it's the Patriots before you've even finished asking the question. Not because they're mismanaged, mercurial, uncertain, or prone to losing faith in players faster than any other franchise. But because no GM in the league has turned shocking, jaw-dropping personnel moves into a lifestyle the way Bill Belichick has. It's part of his brand. The way the Jenner's like luxury, Madonna is weird and Ye is off his rocker, Belichick's ballsiness has defined him since he traded Drew Bledsoe in his own division in 2002. No idea is too insane to at least be plausible. 

In this instance, the idea is that he might be listening to trade offers for Mac Jones after his disappointing 2022. 

NBC Sports Boston - Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio helped to fuel that speculation on Tuesday.

"After the season ended, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked whether Jones will be the team’s starter in 2023, Florio wrote. "Belichick didn’t answer the question, saying instead that Jones has proved he can play in this league. Perhaps a trade could happen." …

The MMQB's Albert Breer joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak and Bertrand" on Thursday to share his insight. 

"I don't think Bill appreciated the way that Mac handled some of the stuff last year," Breer said. "There's a way that I think Bill thinks a franchise quarterback should conduct himself. And for the most part, (Tom) Brady did conduct himself that way. I think there were certain things in the way that Mac handled his second year as a pro that Bill didn't appreciate. …

On multiple occasions, he was caught on the television broadcast yelling at coaches or simply displaying poor body language. Much of his frustrations were with Matt Patricia and the offensive coaching staff's conservative approach.

That behavior, as Breer notes, didn't sit well with Belichick. That might be one reason the Patriots would be willing to hear what the Raiders have to offer in a potential trade for Jones.

"I think they would," Breer said. "Internally, I don't know if they see this massive gap between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. I'm not saying they think Bailey's as good as Mac, but there was some element of Bailey doing what he was coached to do last year that I think gave Bailey the edge to some degree for a little while there.

"So I think it'll be interesting to see what would happen if a real offer came along. I don't think a real offer is going to come along, but it'd be interesting to see what would happen if a real offer did come along."

So that would be two NFL insiders offering pure speculation that GM Bill might be willing to talk trade regarding Jones. With a little added color that Belichick didn't much care for the way he misbehaved out of frustration and walked about with a big puss on his face some of the time. That they like Bailey Zappe. But it would be "interesting" if a "real offer came along," with doubts that "a real offer" might come along. Which was plenty enough for the internet to grab that baton and sprint with it:

Amazing. And yet, all too familiar. Any of 31 other franchises would have the best rookie QB in a generational class of rookie QBs fall in their lap in the middle of Round 1, the fifth quarterback off the board, who played circles around the four who went before him, and feel set for the next decade, at least. The question would be how long to wait before they extend his rookie deal and put him in the same pay grade as the veteran starters in the league. Even after a disappointing second season, the plans would all involve building around him, now that you've secured the most important piece. Not where his "best landing spots" would be. 

But that's New England during the Belichick Epoch. There's never, ever an ordinary moment. 

Personally, I think it's all nonsense. Pure speculation. Opinions pulled right out of people's prison wallets, with no basis in fact. And maybe if there's any grain of truth to it, it comes from sources within the team trying to inflate Zappe's value. Not because they plan to move him either, but because why not? It never hurts to pump a guy's tires. That's how they got a high Round 2 pick for Matt Cassell. That's how they got a 2nd rounder for Jimmy Garoppolo, who to that point had played six quarters of competitive NFL football. And, it should be pointed out, disappointed his entire roster by not playing hurt, forcing them to go with rookie Jacoby Brissett, despite the fact he needed surgery on his throwing hand. But to hear the world tell it, GM Bill had his heart set on replacing Tom Brady with Jimmy G. And five years later, good luck trying to get a 2nd rounder for him now. 

Still, I'll never say never. It's possible some on the Pats staff truly are impressed with Zappe. He did after all, throw 62 touchdown passes in his 14 games at Western Kentucky. Personally, I give more weight to Jones dominating the SEC and throwing for 450 yards in the National Championship game over all those TDs against Charlotte and UT Martin, but that's just one man's opinion. 

What is not my opinion, but is undeniable fact, is that the Pats have done everything since the season ended with a singular purpose: To build around Mac Jones. Starting with the only place they've been able to make changes, the coaching staff. If Belichick was truly disgusted by Jones screaming at Matt Patricia, Patricia would still be in charge of the offense, not Bill O'Brien, fresh off the plane from Alabama. Coach Bill has to realize what we all do. That Jones' histrionics might have been what Selina Meyer's staff would call "bad optics," but it doesn't mean he wasn't justified. 

Jones' frustrations began in training camp, mounted throughout the season as the game plans failed, confusion reigned, play calls wouldn't come in on time, and opponent's were routinely calling out the play as soon as the huddle broke. The changes on the offensive staff are Belichick's acknowledgement to Mac that "It's not you; it's me." Or more specifically, them. And in no universe would he make these changes at the staff level, bring in the one guy who has worked with both this system and Jones himself, only to ship McCorkle to Las Vegas or Washington or wherever. 

It's fun to think about. It's hilarious to listen to people take this notion seriously. But 2023 in Foxboro so far has been all about giving Jones what he needs in order to succeed like he did in 2021. It's Bill O'Brien, Take the Wheel. 

Still, I'll appreciate all this was put out there when Jones is winning playoff games and three years from now when we're getting a Top 40 pick for Zappe.