Future of Mac Jones adds to critical offseason for Patriots organization

Image courtesy of Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as the locker room doors opened to the media for one final time Monday morning during the team’s ‘breakup day,’ Mac Jones’ locker quickly became the first stop on everyone’s final tour of the room this season.

About 35 reporters and cameramen and camerawomen flocked to and then huddled around it, waiting for the former Pats starting quarterback to appear and speak, possibly for one last time as a member of the organization. Jones poked his head out of a side door, smiled and made his way through a narrow path to his locker, jokingly saying the large gathering “looked like a bunch of penguins.”

Jones still has a year left on his rookie deal and the team needs to decide whether it’ll pick up his 5th-year option this winter, but with all the turmoil throughout his short career, sending him somewhere else might be what’s best for everybody.

“Look, I feel like I have a lot of room to grow and there’s a lot of things I can do better,” he said when asked if he’d be open to a change of scenery. “I know that and I’m always going to put my best foot forward and compete. I know that and that’s all I’ve ever done is compete everywhere I’ve been. I really love this place and have a lot of respect for this place and we’ll see how it goes.

“We’ll see. I’m going to compete regardless. I’m really happy to be in the NFL and be a quarterback in the NFL. Obviously, this year didn’t go great. I’m going to do everything I can and have done to get back on the right track.”

While Jones showed flashes in 2021 under Josh McDaniels, the last two years have been unmitigated disasters. Some of it is his fault, but a lot of it isn’t. Jones hasn’t exactly had the easiest transition into the ever-changing NFL. Ironically enough, McDaniels was at the season finale on Sunday and could also be a piece to this massive puzzle as one of the few guys who can get Jones back on track.

Full plate is an understatement when it comes to everything the Krafts have to deal with in the offseason. With so many questions surrounding the head coach and the overall future of the team, Jones’ future is also a critical part of the coach/GM decision making process.

Can Bill and Mac work together if they want to bring both back? Do both sides want a fresh start? Is there a new GM with Bill still here? Who’s the GM if Bill isn’t here? Does that GM still want Mac in a QB1 role? Do the Krafts want Mac to stick around because they may have had significant influence on the pick in 2021? Are they willing to pay him for the 5th-year option while he’s still unproven? If you keep Mac, what do you do with the No. 3 pick, trade it or still draft a QB? Which free agents are coming back? Is Bill O’Brien still the OC? Is McDaniels back? Is Adrian Klemm still the O-line coach? How many other coaches may be leaving?

It’s not hyperbole to say the next month or so will shape the next decade or more for the team. Is it a run-it-back situation for Bill’s 25th (and final) year? Or, will the book finally close forever on The Dynasty with a total reset?

All of that is out of Jones’ hands, but he was asked if he feels like he could work with Belichick if a return is in the cards.

“Ya. I think growing up watching the Patriots and being a big fan of the Patriots, I feel like him and Tom had a lot of success,” Jones said. “I feel like that’s something I really noticed when I was little and I have a lot of respect for what they did and how him and Tom won their six Super Bowls and all that. Very impressive run and we’ll see what the future holds.”

If Jones goes elsewhere and has success, it’ll always be another ugly mark on Belichick’s legacy. If he goes elsewhere and fails it’s a feather in Bill’s cap when it comes to that same legacy. If he becomes ‘the guy’ with a new head coach, the Krafts get the W for sticking with him.

It feels like Jones is hoping for that last one to ultimately be the case, and he made sure he let it be well known how much he appreciates the Krafts…even when answering a question about whether or not he feels like the team put him in the best position to succeed.

“I’m grateful for them to pick me at 15 in the 2021 draft and Mr. Kraft for giving me the opportunity,” he added. “I have a lot of respect for the Kraft family. They built this place from the bottom up and I have all…nothing but love for them and what they’ve done and their family. So, I’m really just grateful for the opportunity.”

Jones hasn’t always done the right thing on the field, but he’s been the exact same person off it when dealing with the media in what’s been a very tough situation. Jones thanked various individuals who stopped to shake his hand or have a quick chat before heading into another part of the building as a few of his teammates cleared out lockers nearby.

Whatever happens, Mac can always look in the mirror and know he tried to make the best of it in midst of the chaos of the ugly post-Brady years in Foxborough.