It certainly seems like battle lines are being drawn in Foxboro, where tension reportedly exists between Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Mac Jones after a disappointing season in which New England’s offense regressed.
One could argue Jones was set up to fail, with Belichick making the perplexing decision to tab Matt Patricia (a former defensive coordinator) as the Patriots’ offensive playcaller and Joe Judge (a former special teams coach) as New England’s quarterbacks coach. But there’s no denying the offense was a mess throughout the 2022 season and that the vibes at One Patriot Place aren’t great ahead of the 2023 NFL campaign.
It’s been reported this offseason that Jones drew the ire of Belichick by seeking outside counsel amid the Patriots’ offensive struggles, calling upon the Alabama Crimson Tide coaching staff in the hopes of finding answers. And now, we have a better idea as to how fractured the relationship might be, as ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio reported earlier this week that Belichick shopped Jones in trade talks.
Is Belichick being petty? Perhaps. But Eric Mangini, a former head coach of the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets who also worked under Belichick in New England, can see why Jones’ actions raised eyebrows.
“Look, I’m a guy who understands grudges by Bill Belichick,” Mangini said this week on FS1’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” “But in this situation, I’m definitely siding more with him. I’ve always had an issue with the way that Mac Jones has treated where he was lucky enough to get drafted. I thought it was a perfect situation for him. I thought having Josh McDaniels and having that offensive staff that he had, and the system that they had, was incredibly fortunate for him and a really good fit. And it never felt like he appreciated it.”
Well, Mangini is correct about one thing: Jones was fortunate — at the time — to be drafted by the Patriots, who had Josh McDaniels installed as their offensive coordinator and showed real promise in the QB’s rookie season by going 10-7. The problem? That feels like ancient history, because Belichick handled McDaniels’ departure to become head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in about the worst way imaginable, which stunted Jones’ growth and evidently led to problems outside the lines.
Still, Mangini is firmly on Team Belichick, going so far as to defend his former boss’ questionable decision-making this past season as it relates to New England’s offensive coaching staff.
“I remember when Josh left and (Jones) was like, ‘Well, that’s fine. I’ve had a bunch of offensive coordinators. I’ll just deal with the next guy,’ ” Mangini said. “And I get what you’re saying. Bill’s getting up in age, but one thing you can’t accuse him of is being status quo. He tried something that nobody else would try. He took a chance that nobody else would take. And typically, that’s the trademark of younger executives, to push limits like that. It didn’t work, it didn’t work out great, but he was still trying to do something that he thought had a chance to potentially be really successful, and he’s always worked at staying ahead of the curve.
“I didn’t love that Mac Jones went outside the building. That’s not what you do. Tom Brady didn’t go outside the building with as much success as he had. They got into a little bit of a beef later on in his career because he wanted to bring in his own trainer, but this was after, what, six Super Bowls? I don’t love Mac Jones’ approach and I get why there might be some resentment on Bill’s part.”
Whether the Patriots ultimately trade Jones remains to be seen. Either way, it’s fair to question whether irreparable harm has been inflicted. And maybe there’s even more to the story we just don’t know yet.
“Well, look, we also hear one small part of the story,” Mangini said. “Who knows what else has gone on in the building. And who knows how deep the level of undercutting that the guys that were there took place. Maybe Mac Jones was fighting the decision from the beginning, which made it a lot more difficult for the decision to be successful.
“So, yeah, on a very superficial level if you’re looking at it as holding a grudge where he’s at and it’s just that simple, you do need to move on from it. But I’m guessing there’s more to the story, and there’s probably more than one incident that showed up over the course of that last season.”