New England Patriots: Mac Jones in 2021 parallels 2001 Tom Brady

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

When examining the New England Patriots quarterback competition during the preseason, Cam Newton represents the safe choice and Mac Jones represents the popular choice.

Both quarterbacks are coming off strong performances following the team’s 35-0 preseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles this past Thursday night, which only furthers the debate.  But one former Patriots player feel Jones is not only the more talented choice, but also the safe choice as well.

Appearing on The Greg Hill show Friday, Ex-Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich feels Jones should be the Week 1 starter because of how the current roster is constructed.

New England Patriots rookie Mac Jones only has to be what Tom Brady was in 2001

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With a strong running game, two good tight ends and a defense that could be one of the best in the league, Ninkovich feels the support is there to start a rookie quarterback, which is not much different than going with an unknown quarterback like Tom Brady back in 2001.

Let’s keep in mind, what we know now is not what we knew back then as the second-year quarterback out of Michigan entered the league with less talent than Mac Jones.

Ninkovich certainly believes.

"“No, I’m sticking with Mac Jones because he’s the future,” Ninkovich said, as transcribed by WEEI.  “And if you are the guy that is going to be here for the long haul and you are this impressive this early and the way the team is built – the roster is set up for a young quarterback.  I am telling you.  The running backs that we have, the offensive line. The running game is going to help setup the play-action pass.  The two tight ends they just went out and paid a truck-load of money to, that need to get healthy.”"

Along with a potential top-5 defense, Ninkovich makes the comparisons to that 2001 team that rode the game management of Brady all the way to a Super Bowl victory.  As great as the 7-time Super Bowl champion is now, let’s remember he simply managed the game during his first three Super Bowls.

In 2001, 2003 and 2004, Brady had a strong running game and great defenses that supported his game management and eventually he was let loose.  Mac Jones can benefit from that same make up.  So can Newton.  But the point Ninkovich is making and what this Patriots fan agrees with is if this kid is the future, let him be the future now.

Sure, Newton is a physical specimen with the ability to run, but we saw firsthand what happens when opposing defenses take away that phrase of Newton’s game.  When he is forced to sit in the pocket and throw the ball, the offense becomes almost too predictable.  That did have a little to do with the lack of offensive weapons in 2020, but it also had something to do with Newton’s decision making and vision.

In Mac Jones, the New England Patriots will have a quarterback they can protect, but also the best option in terms of getting the ball where it needs to go.  As a rookie, he will make mistakes, but the team will benefit more with their rookie quarterback learning from those mistakes and getting better than a veteran making those mistakes.

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Ultimately, it’s Bill Belichick’s decision to make.  When Drew Bledsoe was able to return in 2001, he stuck with what he had in Brady.  While he is saying all the right things when it comes to Cam Newton, the coach knows the rookie is probably his best option.  The keyword, however, is whether he feels Mac Jones is ready.

It really all comes down to that.