The Mac Jones era has arrived for the New England Patriots. On Tuesday the team released veteran quarterback Cam Newton, clearing the way for rookie Jones, who never started a pre-season game.
The 32-year old Newton’s future is uncertain, the ten-year veteran now a free agent. The Patriots, just one year removed from losing Tom Brady, who won six Super Bowls in their uniform, will start a season with a rookie quarterback for the first time since 1993, when Drew Bledsoe was under center.
How Odds Have Changed With Jones Named Starting QB
At least initially, the QB decision has made no difference to the odds makers. BetMGM has the Patriots favored at -165 in their week one matchup against the Dolphins in Foxboro. The Patriots are listed as +3000 to win Super Bowl LVI, the same as before the starting QB was named.
The Patriots ranked seventh in the NFL last season in defense, and Belichick has shaped that unit to be stronger. With their focus on winning the war in the trenches, the Pats also have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and they feature a talented corps of receivers and running backs. Their weapons out of the backfield: namely James White and Damien Harris, are superb. Plus there’s rookie back Rhamondre Stevenson, who has been called a “bulldozer” as a power runner.
The fact is: Jones doesn’t need to be a dynamic playmaker to win games for the Patriots. He just needs to be steady, hand the ball to his running backs, and rely on his defense to take pressure off him. He also has a sure-handed set of receivers, led by Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and a pair of rugged tight ends in Jinnu Smith and Hunter Henry. The Patriots will run a lot of short and mid-range routes, with the goal of controlling possessions and reducing turnovers. Last season, the Patriots were +3 in turnover differential, but they had 14 interceptions, a figure that Belichick wants to shrink with a measured attack by his young QB.
Why Didn’t Newton Stick in New England?
Let’s be clear: Cam Newton was never the future for Belichick and the post-Brady Patriots. He was a gap-filler. Ultimately he was not a fit for a conservative offensive scheme and a team built around the running game and smash-mouth defense. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels doesn’t need Superman. Clark Kent will do.
Newton also brought with him too many distractions. Earlier this week, former NFL QB Scott Zolak, who now works in the broadcast booth for the Patriots, revealed that he thought Newton focused too much on dancing and singing to music between plays in practice rather than on his job. Zolack later apologized, but the fact remained that Newton has a reputation as being a “fun-time” quarterback at this point in his career rather than a big time QB.
Former Super Bowl champion Christian Fauria said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd that Newton’s work ethic and decision to not be vaccinated from COVID-19 probably played some part in Bill Belichick’s decision. The Patriots have long been a no-nonsense organization, and Belichick hates distractions.
What Will Mac Jones Bring To The Job?
A rookie QB will take the controls for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. You might call this the Debut of The Mac (with a shout out to this R&B toe-tapper), but football observers have to wonder what to expect from the first-year passer.
Some have compared Jones to Phil Simms, who was never sexy, but still won a lot of games in the league. Jones has a stronger arm than Simms, but he’ll be asked to perfect the short and mid-range passing game. He’s not a mobile QB, but that doesn’t matter in this league, and Belichick has big bodies in front to protect the rookie.
Want proof the Pats are expecting their rookie to be cautious through the air? WynnBET has running back White, and tight ends Henry and Smith as favorites to catch his first NFL touchdown (+400).
According to BetMGM, these odds have swung for Jones after the announcement of Newton’s release:
- NFL MVP: shifted from +25000 to +8000
- NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: went from +1200 to +500
- Most Passing Yards: +20000 to +5000
- Most Passing TDs: +20000 to now +4000
- Most Interceptions: went from +8000 to +2500
Rookie QBs rarely put up big numbers in their week one debuts. Two years ago, Kyler Murray of the Cardinals tossed for 308 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. In 2018, Sam Darnold of the Jets threw an interception on the first pass of his career, and finished with fewer than 200 yards in his NFL debut. Deshaun Watson threw for only 102 yards and tossed both a touchdown and interception in his debut in 2017. And going way back, when Matthew Stafford made his debut in week one for the Lions in 2009, he fired three interceptions and completed just 16 of his 37 pass attempts.
The Pats are led by the greatest coach in NFL history and an extraordinary OC in McDaniels. Those two won’t let Mac Jones look dreadful, but they’ll also make sure he doesn’t take chances that would lead to big numbers.