Mac Jones' Patriots Career Receives Surprising Lifeline

Dec 17, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) warms
Dec 17, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) warms / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

With Mac Jones' future in New England uncertain, new Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has left the door open for Jones to start next season.

When assessing the quarterback landscape across the NFL last week, NFL Media reported that Jones "is a trade candidate in the coming weeks and most likely will end up elsewhere for the 2024 season", but Van Pelt doesn't sound ready to write off Jones' future in New England quite yet.

Given how the last two seasons have gone, it is easy to forget the promise that Jones showed in his rookie campaign. In 2021, the first-round pick out of Alabama completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns to only 13 interceptions. Jones finished second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting and earned a Pro Bowl nod as New England made their first, and only, playoff appearance in the post-Tom Brady era.

After Jones' first NFL season, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels left for the Las Vegas Raiders' head coaching gig. With McDaniels gone, Bill Belichick inexplicably entrusted defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and special teams coach Joe Judge with the quarterback's development. Rather than investing in the development of a franchise quarterback, Jones took several steps backwards, generated friction with the coaching staff when he went outside of the building for coaching advice, and quarterback controversy emerged between him and Bailey Zappe.

Over the course of the last two seasons, Jones has thrown the fourth-most interceptions of any NFL quarterback, and his multiple benchings have likely saved him from holding the top spot. He threw 22 touchdowns in his first season, but has only thrown 24 in the two combined seasons since. Jones started the first 11 games of the 2023 season and was pulled from four separate contests before losing his starting role to Bailey Zappe, who started the last six games.

As the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator last season, Van Pelt took a disastrous quarterback situation and helped 39-year-old QB Joe Flacco win NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Cleveland made the playoffs despite starting five different quarterbacks under center last season, a testament to the work that Van Pelt and head coach Kevin Stefanski did with the position.

Van Pelt, a former NFL quarterback himself, has a reputation as a quarterback whisperer. The Patriots are also in prime position to take a franchise quarterback with the third overall pick, so New England's situation at the most important position in sports could go in several different directions. At least for now, Mac Jones is one of those directions.

More New England Patriots news and rumors: