Juju Smith-Schuster Has the Perfect Explanation for Why He Chose New England
When you're a 26-year-old former Pro Bowler coming off a Super Bowl win, hitting the market in perhaps the weakest wide receiver group in the history of free agency, it's to be expected that you'll have options available. Especially when you're not in a position to demand obscene dollars the way say, Davante Adams did and Justin Jefferson is about to.
Juju Smith-Schuster just lived that life. And he chose to sign with New England, for less than Jakobi Meyers got from Las Vegas. And when asked why the Patriots as opposed to somewhere else, he gave the same answer that winners have been giving throughout the 21st century around here:
“To be honest, it was Belichick, man. The guy, you know — just the want and the need, and the position that I can fill there. It really, really caught my attention. And I felt like that was the thing, feeling wanted in a place where I played against, a head coach I have a lot of respect for. And I just think that goes a long way.”
This is a song we know by heart. One we can do in karaoke without looking at the lyrics on the screen, because we've heard it sung by veterans from Rodney Harrison to Randy Moss to Chris Long and dozens in between. And yet every time one guy in the league suggests he wouldn't sign with New England because it's no fun here, that story goes around the world while comments like Smith-Schuster's are still putting their pants on.
Just last week I caught about five minutes of Felger & Mazz, which is on right after Zolak & Bertrand. And they spent the whole time talking about some anonymous veteran at a position only Belichick cares about (so a long snapper, I'm guessing) turned down a Patriots offer because he'd never want to play for this coach. Which everyone on the show took as the majority opinion around the league, and proof positive we've seen the last of postseason wins in these parts. Yet here we have JSS, who has previously only known fun, affable, approachable, universally respected and successful "players coaches" in Mike Tomlin and Andy Reid. And all the time, watching Belichick from afar and wanting to play for him. He continues:
“Going against you guys was a pain in our butt, but the tradition was always there. And I always had respect for the Patriots, even though I was on the other side. Obviously, we’re playing to beat you guys, but now that I’m on this side of the ball and on this side of the country, it’s just unbelievable. I’m super excited to be a part of the city, the fanbase, and the team."
Then as a chaser, he was asked about how he expects to be utilized by Bill O'Brien:
“It’s a little bit of everything. They’re giving me the opportunity to go inside/outside. I think what Bill does bring to the table, is being able to dominate the offensive game plan and me coming in and filling those roles. They see potential in what I can do.”
And his assessment of Mac Jones:
“I have not thrown with Mac yet. But just watching film and just watching him, that dude loves, breathes New England. He’s the definition of a Patriot. Even in my short time, my 24 hours of being in New England, he was there, constantly working out with the guys, just getting after it, getting in the books. I mean, he’s a rookie Pro Bowler. So they do have a lot of potential and I can’t wait to get right with him.”
And… I'm spent.
Just bear this in mind the next time someone is trying to push the fiction that playing for a guy who's idea of fun is working hard at getting better and having that hard work translate into success is somehow free agent repellent. Like Foxboro is no longer a destination for players who are serious and dedicated to winning now that they won't get to tell their grandkids they played with Tom Brady or whatever. Brady is gone, but the coaching GOAT is still here, improving his team like always. And if that never not been fun.
Seven years into his careeer, Smith-Schuster is still entering his athletic prime. His numbers have been down after losing most of a season to injury and then being the No. 2 target behind Travis Kelce in Kansas City. But he still put up better numbers than anyone on the Patriots since Julian Edelman in 2019. Like Edelman, he's tough over the middle of the field. He has a higher upside than Meyers:
And just as important, he's coming here to work with this coach, this coordinator, and this quarterback. I'm convinced GM Bill is very serious about getting DeAndre Hopkins or Jerry Jeudy. So by the time camp starts, Juju could be the WR2, which would be a dream scenario. But for now, last year's offense has been upgraded significantly. And this guy is going to fit in here to perfection.