What former players are predicting for Mac Jones in his rookie season

Retired quarterbacks envision success for Jones, but one former Jets linebacker has doubts.

Mac Jones
Mac Jones at Patriots practice on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by: Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Though he has not yet played a regular-season snap, Mac Jones has already been in NFL headlines for months.

This isn’t necessarily abnormal for someone in Jones’s position: He was a first-round pick, battled in a preseason quarterback competition, and is now set to lead a team that’s been one of the most successful in the NFL over the last two decades.

Yet Jones has already become even more a topic of conversation given his specific circumstances. He wasn’t simply the 15th overall pick, he was also the first quarterback that Bill Belichick ever drafted in the first round. He wasn’t in a normal quarterback competition, as it involved former NFL MVP (and 2011 No. 1 pick) Cam Newton.

And given that he’s taking over as starting quarterback of the Patriots, Jones will unavoidably be compared to Tom Brady regardless of what he does. Expectations for the team remain high.


But what do former NFL players think of the 23-year-old’s potential heading into 2021?

Here’s a look at what a few of them have said:

Drew Brees

The former Saints quarterback, who retired following the 2020 season, is now an NBC Sports analyst.

He was asked about Jones in a conference call with reporters on Sept. 6:

“The minute the Patriots took Mac Jones at 15th, I said, that’s the steal of the draft,” Brees told reporters. “It’s probably the guy who is most ready to play NFL quarterback right now, of all the guys who were taken before.

“His level of execution last year at Alabama — and I know we can sit here and argue he’s got the best players on the field on his side, on both sides of the ball — but in watching the National Championship game, that’s where it became very evident to me,” Brees added. “This guy’s level of execution, his understanding of offensive football, his timing, his rhythm, his ability not only to make the routine throws, but to make throws that you’re going to need to make at the next level in order to win games and take care of the football the way he did, I felt like he was the most NFL ready.”

Dan Orlovsky

Orlovsky, an NFL quarterback from 2005-2017, is now a regular contributor for ESPN. In a recent “Get Up!” segment, Orlovsky broke down a preseason play in which Jones communicated a series pre-play blocking assignments before executing a back-shoulder throw to tight end Devin Asiasi (who caught it for a 19-yard gain).


“Why I think Mac Jones is going to be Rookie of the Year: He always has a plan,” Orlovsky explained. “And he always has the ability to communicate the plan, and then we’re watching a guy that executes as a very high level.”

Asked which of the 2021 first-round pick quarterbacks he felt would have the greatest success over the first five years of their NFL careers, Orlovsky picked Jones.

“I think for a quarterback to have success, you’ve got to be dependent on the general manager, the head coach, and the talent around you,” Orlovsky explained. “That’s why New England is best set up for a quarterback to go in there and play well.

“The talent for those other guys is greater,” Orlovsky admitted in comparing Jones to his first-round peers, “but when it comes to success both individual performance-wise and overall team, Mac Jones is set up the best in New England.”

Tony Romo

Romo has become one of the most prominent NFL commentators in the industry since his retirement in 2017. The former quarterback has made a name for himself in media for his ability to call out plays in games before they happen.

As a result, New England fans will be pleased to hear that he thinks Jones will be able to “run the offense” for the Patriots, explaining exactly what he means by that in a Sept. 8 interview with USA Today NFL editor Doug Farrar.


“At its core, the [quarterback] position is played with your ability to process so much information so quickly and see leverage, movement,” said Romo. “You understand in four steps that the linebacker can or can’t get here, and you start to make your decision early. Or you’re waiting to see if he got over here, right? I think Jones can do that. I think I’ve already seen that. I think I can watch a drive and tell you if he has the ability to see and have spatial awareness.

“Bill Belichick isn’t making a decision like that lightly,” Romo continued. “He’s not guessing. He knows this kid has the ability to do things and repeat them over and over again. And run the offense. It sounds easy to say ‘run the offense,’ but you can run the offense better when you know the responsibilities of the defenders, and you know leverage, and you can see it quickly.”

Bart Scott

Without question, retired linebacker Bart Scott (now with ESPN) has frequently been one of Jones’s harshest critics.

In a January segment, shortly after Jones was first projected to the Patriots in a mock draft, the former New York Jet labeled Jones as “Greg McElroy 2.0.”

And as for the comparisons to inescapable comparisons to Brady, Scott was far from sold.

“Just because it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck don’t make it a duck,” Scott said in an ESPN segment. “[Jones] can look like Tom Brady in the pocket, he can have the dad bod and everything Tom Brady had. But it doesn’t mean he’s going to be Tom Brady.”


“But they don’t need him to be Tom Brady,” Scott admitted. “This is a user-friendly team right now that has great talent around Mac Jones.”

Looking over the long-term, Scott questioned whether or not Jones would develop in the same way as some of the other first-round picks.

“The growth is going to be stunted for a little while, because the ceiling isn’t that high for Mac Jones,” said Scott. “When you get an Alabama player, you get a player who’s pro-ready, but a player who’s close to being pretty much who he’s going to be, because he’s going to get tremendous coaching, he’s going to have tremendous football acumen. Tell me the last Alabama quarterback who came into this league and took the league by storm?”

While Scott said he believes Jones can actually lead the Patriots to the AFC Championship game, he remains doubtful about the rookie’s ability to carry a team.

“At some point your quarterback’s going to have to win you a game, not just not crash the car.”


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