After the Carolina Panthers fired head coach Ron Rivera, owner Jerry Richardson promoted offensive coordinator Mike Shula to interim head coach. The promotion was met with mixed reactions from fans and analysts alike. Some felt it was a logical move for the team’s success, while others thought it was an unnecessary decision that could jeopardize the franchise’s future.
Mac Jones is Alabama’s new starting quarterback. His job will be difficult but he has the talent and ability to bring a troubling trend to an end.
The New England Patriots’ selection of Mac Jones with the 15th overall choice in the 2021 NFL Draft was a huge step forward for a team looking for a long-term successor for Tom Brady. After all, during his first year in Foxborough, Cam Newton showed little to instill confidence in his ability to play the position at a high level.
Jones persuaded Bill Belichick to go with a rookie over a previous league MVP despite his rookie status. Even while Patriots supporters are justifiably upbeat about the future, the team’s talented first-year quarterback has a difficult task in ending a worrisome pattern.
The Mac Jones era has gotten off to a strong start.
Fans of the Patriots have spent the past several months hearing Belichick defend Newton as his starting quarterback.
On Tuesday, that concept came to an end.
Belichick severed ties with a quarterback who never appeared like an ideal match in the first place, which took most people off surprise. By releasing Newton, Mac Jones was able to take over first place on the depth chart. While the Patriots’ decision to replace their incumbent starter was unexpected, anybody who saw the youngster excel in practice and preseason games could see the benefits of making a quick transition at the most important position in sports.
Jones allows offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to use the whole of his playbook. Despite the fact that the first-year pro lacks a particularly remarkable body or a strong arm, he brings a high level of accuracy, processing speed, and intellect to the table. It’s hardly a leap to suggest Jones has some of the same characteristics that propelled Tom Brady to success in New England.
It remains to be seen if he lives up to the moniker of “franchise quarterback.”
In fact, despite stealing Newton’s position, Jones must defy history to put a stop to a worrisome trend.
The former Alabama standout has a difficult task in trying to reverse a worrisome trend.
The New England Patriots have high hopes for Mac Jones as he enters his first season. | Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Jones was in a position to win a national championship while at Alabama. At the same time, he was a standout for a program with a shockingly short history of producing NFL starting quarterbacks.
The Crimson Tide have had a lot of success under Nick Saban, but when it comes to pro-level signal-callers, they don’t have many success tales to share. It’s difficult to be pleased with how Alabama quarterbacks have performed after graduating from college:
- Greg McElroy (2009-10): He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and played in two games before retiring in 2014.
- A.J. McCarron (2011-13): The three-time national champion and 2013 Heisman runner-up was drafted 164th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s only played in 17 games thus far (four starts).
- Blake Sims (2014), a two-time national champion and second-team All-SEC pick in 2014, went undrafted in 2015 and has bounced around various professional football leagues.
- Jake Coker (2015): Following leading the Crimson Tide to a national championship, the Florida State transfer went undrafted and retired from football in 2017 after knee surgery.
- Jalen Hurts (2016-17): Hurts moved to Oklahoma after putting up great statistics as a freshman and came close to winning the Heisman Trophy. During his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles, though, the 2020 second-round selection completed just 52 percent of his throws.
- Tua Tagovailoa (2018-19): Led Alabama to a come-from-behind victory against Georgia and seemed to be on his way to being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft until suffering a hip injury that cut short his junior season. With the Miami Dolphins, he had an up-and-down rookie year, including being benched twice for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Will Jones defy the odds and emerge as a first-team starter? Or will he follow in the footsteps of a long line of quarterbacks who won national championships at Alabama but struggled in the NFL?
Fortunately for him, in New England, he has a solid supporting cast that includes an outstanding offensive line and a deep group of running backs headed by former Alabama star Damien Harris. Furthermore, due to Belichick’s offseason expenditures, the Patriots have a chance to finish as a top-five defense. Jones may not have history on his side, but he seems to have the elements in place to succeed.
What does Jones, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jalen Hurts’ future hold?
With Jones, Hurts, and Tagovailoa all ready to start the 2021 season, it’ll be fascinating to watch which former Crimson Tide quarterback shines the brightest. Surprisingly, each of the three brings something special to the table.
Jones lacks agility, but he reads defenses effectively, distributes the ball with pinpoint precision, and has remarkable composure for a 22-year-old. The Patriots have a timing-based passing system that seems to be a great match for his abilities.
Hurts, on the other hand, gives the Eagles a dual-threat quarterback option. His diminutive size (6-foot-1, 223 pounds) and inconsistency as a passer, though, may push Philadelphia to make a change at the end of the season. And with Deshaun Watson seeming like a potential trade possibility, it wouldn’t be surprising if general manager Howie Roseman made a play for him.
Hurts isn’t the only former Alabama quarterback who may be replaced by Watson. Despite selecting Tagovailoa sixth overall a year ago, the Dolphins seem to be one of the most probable destinations for one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
However, if their young quarterback regains his pre-injury form, Miami may be set at quarterback.
And you can guarantee that Mac Jones will be looking forward to facing the quarterback he replaced twice a year for the foreseeable future.
Pro Football Reference provided all statistics.
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