This Aspect Of Mac Jones-Joe Judge Relationship Highlights Patriots’ Big Risk

This is the biggest Patriots storyline this season and beyond


May 24

Either the Patriots really believe in Mac Jones, or Bill Belichick is convinced he doesn’t need to completely invest the necessary resources to help Jones flourish.

Or perhaps a little bit of both.

Whatever the case, the Patriots are playing a dangerous game with the second-year signal-caller. Jones had a fine rookie season and should inspire long-term hope that the position is, at the very least, stable. What isn’t so clear, especially after this offseason, is whether Jones has all the tools at his disposal to maximize his potential as a first-round pick from a year ago.

Much has been made about the Patriots’ questionable decision-making process when it comes to filling out the coaching staff. Specifically, the lack of a real leader on the offensive side is a head-scratcher. Jones’ first-year shepherd, Josh McDaniels, is off to Las Vegas. Instead of replacing McDaniels with a battle-tested QB caddie, the Patriots instead opted for Foxboro retreads in Joe Judge and Matt Patricia.

Belichick has been intentionally vague about titles and responsibilities, but it seems as if Judge — whose only pro background as an offensive-focused coach is one year leading Patriots wideouts — will work closest on with Jones.

Instead of the 23-year-old quarterback spending his second year learning from a proven offensive mind, Jones and Judge apparently will try to teach other.

“He has knowledge that is very beneficial to me as a quarterback, and obviously I’m going to learn with him, that’s the goal, is to kind of teach each other and move along and take what he knows and then take the experiences that I have and combine them and work together as a great team,” Jones said Monday at the Patriots’ first OTA session. “Obviously, we have him and (backups Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe) so we have a great group of guys that can come together and work together in that room.”

That one line really, really sticks out: That’s the goal, is to kind of teach other.

The Patriots offense should be centered around how they can help Jones improve, and “teaching” Judge feels like it might get in the way of that.

When you look at the NFL’s best quarterbacks, they all got some help along the way. Patrick Mahomes spent his rookie season in a building that included Andy Reid, Matt Nagy, Eric Bieniemy, Brad Childress and Mike Kafka. Reid and Bieniemy have been there for every snap. Josh Allen became an MVP contender under Brian Daboll and Ken Dorsey. Justin Herbert took the jump under offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who has been an offensive assistant and/or coordinator since 2007.

Even four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers studied under Mike McCarthy when McCarthy was considered innovative, and Matt Lafleur’s offensive system saved Rodgers from the wilderness. Not to mention Tom Clements, who has been a QB coach or offensive coordinator since 1992 and was there when Rodgers got to Green Bay ? and was plucked out of retirement presumably to appease Rodgers in his return to the Packers.

And obviously, Patriots fans saw Tom Brady become an all-time great with help from Charlie Weis, Bill O’Brien and McDaniels, to name a few.

Jones himself even (indirectly?) underscored the importance of the role when asked about longtime college offensive mind Joe Dickinson, who was a mentor for the QB.

“I’m a sponge, I like to take the knowledge from people who have done it, people that have played the position, and learn as much as I can while I?m still developing,” Jones said.

(Judge technically was a quarterback at Mississippi State.)

The X-factor in all of this is Belichick. He is the greatest football coach of all time. His focus, of course, is the defense, but it’s not like he didn’t have a hand in Brady’s ascent while working with both the QB and staff to build game plans for years. Perhaps we’ve undersold his role in that regard for years.

Either way, it’s a big gamble, and it’s the sort of gamble that if it doesn’t hit, it could hurt the organization for years.

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