As a self-described perfectionist, Mac Jones hasn’t always handled failure well. Just ask Nick Saban, who coached the New England Patriots’ rookie quarterback at Alabama.
Learning to harness his emotions was a crucial step in Jones’ development, as Saban explained during a recent episode of “Hey Coach & The Nick Saban Show.” The Crimson Tide coach recalled one moment during an indoor practice that he viewed as a “turning point” in the young QB’s career.
“We had one day where we had to go in the indoor (practice facility),” Saban explained. “Sometimes, I sit up in the … weight coaches’ second-floor office and look out the window. I was looking out the window, and I can only see half the field. Mac was on the other side of the field. I could see Mac, but I couldn’t see the defense, and I couldn’t see the receivers. I could only see Mac.
“So every time he would throw the ball, I would just look at Mac, and I could tell whether it was complete or incomplete based on his body language. And I told the film guy, ‘Film this.’ (I) showed it to (Jones) and said, ‘This is how you’re affecting everybody else. I can’t even see whether you threw the ball complete or incomplete, and I can tell whether it was complete or incomplete by how you’re acting.’
“I think that might have been the turning point for him. Sometimes, doing those little individual things where you show somebody something like that is really, really beneficial to them. It’s not a negative thing or anything. It’s just, ‘Hey, look. See this? This is not a good thing.’ “
Jones comes from a tennis family, and Saban believes his volatile “tennis player’s mentality” ? which earned him comparisons to John McEnroe ? held him back earlier in his Alabama tenure. Jones played behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa for three seasons before exploding for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2020 while leading an undefeated Alabama team to a national championship.
“That was probably Mac’s biggest hurdle to overcome as a player,” Saban said. “Being able to control his emotions. Especially to play the quarterback position. To not get so upset or frustrated when he threw a bad ball or made a bad read or whatever. And he did kind of have a tennis player’s mentality. It was: Do you understand how you’re affecting everybody else?
“This is not an individual sport. You’re the leader of the team, and you’re kicking and fussing and acting like you messed up, and everyone else sees that. And that’s not a good thing for your position. You have to be the commander in chief. You have to be in control of what’s happening.”
Jones hasn’t completely erased his temper — he was visibly frustrated after a few unfulfilling drives in last Thursday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons — but leadership has not been an issue for him in his first professional campaign. He quickly earned the respect of his veteran teammates and has been lauded for his work ethic and unselfishness, though some have joked that he can be too serious at times.
Saban, a longtime friend of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, viewed New England as the perfect landing spot for Jones. So far, they’ve been a great match. Jones is a front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the 7-4 Patriots sit atop the AFC East after reeling off five consecutive wins.
“I think he’s a really good fit for where he is,” Saban said.