Patriots Rumors: New Details On Mac Jones, Bill Belichick Tension

Jones reportedly sought advice from Alabama's coaching staff


Apr 4, 2023

Back in January, NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms reported Mac Jones drew Bill Belichick’s ire during the 2022 season by going behind the coach’s back to seek advice about the Patriots’ dysfunctional offense.

We now know from whom the quarterback was soliciting that counsel.

Simms said on Monday’s episode of “PFT Live” that Jones called coaches at Alabama, his alma mater, to ask for solutions as New England’s offense sputtered under the direction of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge.

“Of course Mac Jones must have been frustrated, and that’s what I heard,” Simms said. “I think I said that early in the season, that he had called Alabama and certain coaches saying, ‘Hey, can you give some ideas to our coaches.’ Well, I mean, come on. All of us who pay attention to football, how do you think that’s going to go over with New England people if they heard that was happening, right? …

“I’m sure he was frustrated, but I don’t know that calling Alabama, where the head coach is an ex-assistant of your head coach — it’s going to get back. That’s where he went wrong.”

Alabama’s head coach, of course, is Nick Saban, whose friendship with Belichick dates back decades. It’s not surprising, then, that the Patriots evidently caught wind of Jones’ back-channel dealings, and that Belichick wouldn’t be pleased about a player going outside the organization to question his plan.

Those who closely followed Belichick’s public comments noticed a jarring shift in his tone toward Jones during the season. Last summer, the coach was raving about the QB’s “tremendous strides” and “dramatic” Year 2 improvements, saying the Patriots would do all they could to support him. By October, as Jones returned from a Week 3 high ankle sprain, Belichick was refusing to commit to him as New Englands’s locked-in starter — a message he maintained when speaking with reporters last week.

But Jones wouldn’t have needed to explore his own methods of fixing the Patriots’ offense if Belichick hadn’t tabbed Patricia and Judge to lead it, despite neither having any prior experience in doing so. That experiment, which was heavily criticized at the time, failed spectacularly, and Patricia and Judge both were removed from their positions after the season.

“I don’t know what Bill thought was going to happen,” a source told longtime Patriots reporter Mike Giardi of NFL Network. “The decisions he made set the table for Mac’s regression. For the entire offensive regression.”

Another interesting angle of Simms’ report is that Alabama’s offensive coordinator this past season was Bill O’Brien, whom the Patriots hired to lead their offense in 2023. It’s unclear whether Jones was calling O’Brien, with whom he overlapped only briefly, or other members of the Crimson Tide staff.

There’s reason to believe O’Brien’s arrival can trigger a bounce-back season from Jones, who was the Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2021. But it remains to be seen whether he’ll even be behind center for New England in Week 1.

The 24-year-old signal-caller has a “big fan” in Patriots owner Robert Kraft, but ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio on Tuesday reported Belichick “has shopped Jones to multiple teams” this offseason, with Josh McDaniels’ Las Vegas Raiders mentioned as one potential destination.

Second-year pro Bailey Zappe, who played well during Jones’ injury, is the only other QB on the Patriots’ roster.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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