Mac Jones Still Has Much To Prove As The Leader Of The New Patriots

Image Credit: Twitter @PFF_Patriots screen shot

When the New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones in the first round, it sent a shiver through the NFL ranks.

The rookie QB displaced “Superman” himself, repacing Pats 2020 starter Cam Newton right before the regular season. This was a year after the Pats missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. The Brady era moved from the Boston tundra to the Tampa Bay beaches and achieved Super Bowl gold.

Mac Jones was an unknown quantity, and coach Bill Belichick was betting the farm on the rookie with a QB that had already made a Super Bowl in Newton.

However, Belichick trusted his instincts, and rightfully, and the Patriots are back in the playoffs. It is indicative of the same trust Belichick gave his former protégé Tom Brady, whom he started over Drew Bledsoe, the man Patriots faithful considered the playoff turnaround king.

The Mac Jones iteration of the New England Patriots went 10-7 in the regular season. It landed them a wild card spot against the Buffalo Bills in upstate New York; although the New England Patriots lost to the Buffalo Bills 47-17 in the wild-card round.

Jones led all rookies in passing yards (3,801) and passing touchdowns (22). He also led in completion percentage (67.6) and passer rating (92.5), which has him as an obvious candidate to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

However, if you look at history, Jones will likely come up short against the Bills tonight. Rookie quarterbacks are 6-8 in their first playoff start since 2000, although four of those starts were by rookies substituting the regular starting quarterback.

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Rookie quarterbacks who were the team’s starting quarterback during the regular season have a record of 4-6 in their first playoff starts.

The last rookie quarterback to start a playoff game: Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens in 2018, and after being sacked seven times he lost 23-17 to the Chargers in a wild card game.

Many of the biggest QB names in professional football fell victim to the same rookie playoff start hex.

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Dak Prescott fell short in his first playoff start in 2016. A few seasons earlier, in 2012, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin went head to head in the wild card round. Wilson would emerge victorious after Griffin had a knee injury in the fourth quarter that forced him to leave.

In the AFC, Andrew Luck also had a rough playoff welcoming. While he threw for 288 yards, it came on a whopping 54 passes as the Colts failed to reach the end zone in a 24-9 loss to the Ravens.

However, in Week 13, the Patriots defeated the Bills in Buffalo through harsh weather conditions as they will reportedly face today. The Patriots didn’t rest on their rookie’s arm to steer the strategy, leaning very heavily on their running game.

During the 14-10 Patriots win, 93.9 percent of their offensive plays were running plays. If that is any indication of today’s game, the Pats will look to nullify the elements like wind and cold by relying less on Mac Jones’ arm.

Mac Jones couldn’t break the rookie playoff curse but he still is seeking to prove why he was the best option for the Pats. He has big shoes to fill in the departure of Tom Brady but has thrilled all season long to get the team to the postseason.

The pressure was on Jones in his playoff debut, but his resilience and a game plan from Belichick is the best chance to ensure a solid future for the team moving forward.

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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.