As we navigate the ebb and flow of the tempest that is your New England Patriots offseason, there's one major question that has not been adequately addressed.
We've heard the rumor that Bill Belichick was so unhappy that Mac Jones was reaching out to people outside the organization for advice last year (presumably his old coaches at Alabama). We've also got several credible reports that the trade rumors are total bullshit, and that no one from the teams supposedly in the discussions is aware of any discussions:
Then we heard that there is "support" for Bailey Zappe in the locker room, as discussed by Dan Patrick. Which was reported as if that means Pats players prefer Zappe over Jones. Which can be debunked by simply listening to the next words out of Patrick's mouth:
Which begs the still unanswered question: What DO Mac Jones' teammates think of all this sturm und drang? And it appears we've finally getting the answer, from Patriots insider and podcast guest Phil Perry:
MSN - Boston NBC Sports reporter Phil Perry said players aren’t pleased with the current situation.
“I’ve spoken to players who are not happy that this is in the news, that the Patriots and their potential interest in trading Mac Jones is out there in the public sphere,” Perry said, via NBC Sports Boston. “They aren’t happy on Mac’s behalf; they aren’t happy, period, on their own behalf. They’re not happy that 2022 is bleeding into 2023." …
According to Perry, folks inside the Patriots organization think that Belichick is overreacting to [Jones seeking outside help].
“Folks in the building understand he was in an adverse situation, and that is putting it gently,” Perry added. “It’s really difficult to hold it against him that he tried to fix it on his own. This is how people view this: Mac Jones felt as though he had exhausted all options available to him in the building, so he went out and pursued improvement elsewhere. And he might be punished because of that? He might be traded because of that? That’s him writing his own ticket out of town? There’s an absurdity to all of this that is not lost on Patriots employees.”
tl;dr: "That's our quarterback." [sniff]
You can look at this report in one of two ways:
As a negative. That Belichick's players are ripped at him for his unfair treatment of one of their own and are going to band together against him in a mutiny.
Or as a positive. That Belichick's players are ripped at him for his unfair treatment of one of their own and are going to band together against him in a mutiny.
I choose the latter.
Look, Belichick is in a position where he can handle the occasional insurrection. Hell, HC Bill was weathering the brunt of his players' animosity toward GM Bill when most of his current roster was in Pull Ups. Or not even born, if you want to go back to him benching Bernie Kosar, back when he was a demigod in Cleveland, in favor of Vinny Testaverde. Then take him benching a healthy Drew Bledsoe. Releasing Lawyer Milloy. Dumping Randy Moss. He's united his locker room against him more than you've had hot dinners. And he always comes out of it clean. Hell, they still haven't made sense of Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII. And all they did in response was to win Super Bowl LIII. (That was the next one, in case your Ancient Roman math is rusty.)
The point is, a locker room united against him, is, by definition, divided. It's better the players be ripped at him for the trade rumors (fake though they are), than looking with frustration at Mac Jones because they finished 17th in points scored. Giving your troops someone to hate has been bringing humans together since we invented armies. Even when it's their commander. In some instances, especially when it's their commander.
Think of that part in The Dirty Dozen, when the nastiest, most incorrigible miscreants in the European Theater are brought together for a desperate mission. Of course they refuse to work together, because they're all rotten criminals. Until they get pissed about being forced to shave with cold water. Only then do they rise up against Lee Marvin (more on him in a moment). And he understands it's a good thing. Because it's their way of coming together. And the first step toward them becoming an effective fighting unit:
So Belichick has given his players a common enemy. The most formidable one they could ever face. Himself. In this instance, rallying around Mac Jones in a way they might not have if he was just a third-year quarterback who finished 26th in passer rating, with 11 interceptions and just 14 touchdowns. Right now it sounds like they're all supporting their signal caller, and blaming the coaches who gave him the signals to call. And that is the best possible scenario after the debacle that was 2022.
(Lee Marvin was so good at playing badasses because he wasn't acting. He was a corporal in the Marine Corps who was involved in no less than 21 landings in the Pacific Theater in WWII. While capturing Mount Tapochau in the Battle of Saipan, most of his unit was wiped out. Marvin was shot through his sciatic nerve by machine fire, and then again in the foot by a sniper. He spent a year in a hospital recovering. And by the time he got his honorable discharge, "he was demoted to private after Marvin, known for being a troublemaker, caused some issues." Still, he tried to reenlist, but he was refused, due to his wounds. Just bear that in mind next time you watch a Lee Marvin movie. Or anytime some current actor is trying to act like a tough guy. He didn't have to play pretend. RIP, Marine.)