Bill Belichick never will say it publicly, but it’s clear he loves him some Mac Jones.
The Patriots head coach, who was seen high-fiving Jones at practice last week, has praised the rookie throughout the summer in ways that go beyond Belichick-speak. That continued Monday morning during a WEEI interview.
“Mac has come in here and worked hard,” Belichick said during a “Greg Hill Show” appearance, as transcribed by WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “He’s put in a ton of work every day. I think that has paid off and it’s showed up in the things he’s been able to improve on. If he makes a mistake he learns from it and works hard at it — he works hard in the first place so he doesn’t make mistakes.
“Maybe he gets it right the first time, which is sometimes hard at that position. His work ethic is very good.”
Hard work and dependability, perhaps even more than high-end skill, are the two most important traits a player can possess on a Belichick team. Jones brings both of those things to the table, along with legitimate talent and a high football IQ. His body (including that nagging knee injury) might be the only thing about him that isn’t NFL-ready.
The 2021 first-round pick got off to an iffy start Sunday night against the Giants, but was excellent against in the third quarter against New York’s backups. Overall, it’s difficult argue that Jones hasn’t outperformed veteran Cam Newton during training camp and the preseason.
It all remains to be seen whether it’s enough for Jones to win the job.
Newton, despite his COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding,” still is being treated like the starter. And Belichick throughout camp has indicated Newton will be under center Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.
But Belichick’s stance recently has softened, and he did not commit to a starter while speaking with reporters Monday. Maybe his remarks were more an indication of gamesmanship with the Dolphins than of the Patriots’ QB competition still being undecided, but Jones having forced Belichick to consider benching Newton also is a legitimate possibility.
Jones continually saying all the right things also further helps his case. However, if you listen close enough, it’s clear the Alabama product wants to win the job.
If Jones keeps checking all of his head coach’s boxes, Belichick just might give it to him.