Patriots

Ex-Patriots player and former NFL QBs agree: New England’s coaching is failing Mac Jones

One analyst even suggested that Jones should demand a trade if things don't change over the offseason.

Mac Jones has had a rough go of it this season. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The Patriots’ struggling offense posted another low on Thursday night, scoring just 10 points and posting only 242 total yards in a loss to the Bills.

Possibly the biggest issue though has been the regression of quarterback Mac Jones. As a rookie, Jones completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions with an 87 passer rating. This season, Jones has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,963 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions with an 87 passer rating in nine games. He’s also been sacked 25 times already after getting sacked just 28 times last season.

With the Patriots unable to move the ball consistently and Jones regressing through the first dozen games of the season, there’s a common blame from several analysts around the league – and it’s not the quarterback.

“The offensive system that they’re running is not cutting it,” former Patriots linebacker turned ESPN analyst Rob Ninkovich said on Friday’s “Get Up!” “They’re not scoring points. They’re not moving the football. They don’t have anything – except for maybe last week when you thought, ‘Maybe they’ve got something going on here,’ and then they just take another step backward. So, there’s no consistency, which is a huge problem.”

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Moving forward, Ninkovich doesn’t believe Jones shouldn’t share much of the blame for what’s happened so far this season, and that things need to change around him.

“I think Mac Jones is a good quarterback. I really do,” Ninkovich said. “I think his rookie season, he did a great job in a really tough situation with Josh McDaniels as his OC – which is a really advanced offense. So, he has an advanced offense his rookie season and he does really well, probably the best rookie in the draft class. His second year, he regresses.

“I’m not putting that on Mac Jones. I’m putting that on Matt Patricia, the offensive coordinator. Bill [Belichick] has a lot to do with it as well to put Matty in that place. I love Matty, he’s a great coach, but you’ve also got to have a different mindset as an offensive coordinator.”

Ninkovich believes that the experiment of Patricia working as the Patriots’ offensive play-caller has failed, saying his offensive background lacks in comparison to some of the top offensive minds in the league.

“You look at some of these OCs that are the gurus, they’re like, writing plays down at lunch on napkins,” Ninkovich said. “You see (Dolphins coach) Mike McDaniel, Josh McDaniels, you look at these guys who are offensive minded, they have been offensive guys their whole life. So, I think the switch is so hard and we’ve never seen it before. You saw it last night, it just doesn’t look good.”

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Fellow ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark agreed with Ninkovich, citing that the Lions got worse under Patricia’s three-year tenure as the Lions’ coach, and that Patriots quarterbacks coach Joe Judge oversaw an operation with the Giants that also failed. Clark thinks that the offensive coaching is just one of the things separating the Patriots from the Bills.

“Mac Jones was able to excel last year, compared to other rookies, because of what he has from the neck up. Not because of his arm, not because of his talent,” Clark said. “When you compare how Buffalo was moving to how New England was moving – one, they have a way more talented quarterback. Two, they play to that quarterback’s strengths.

“Matt Patricia and Joe Judge don’t know how to play to the quarterback’s strengths because they’ve never had to coach that. They’ve never had to scheme throughout the week to put a quarterback in the best situation to succeed. They’ve never had to take a quarterback from his first year to his second year. That’s what’s different y’all. Those guys can’t coach offense.”

ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky, who has been a common critic of the Patriots’ offensive coaching well before the season began, thinks that Jones should set an ultimatum this offseason.

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“If I was Mac Jones and his reps/team and this off-season there are no plans for a true/proven OC to come into NE,” Orlovsky wrote on Twitter, “I would ask to be traded.”

Former NFL quarterback turned analyst Sage Rosenfels tweeted “Coaching matters” in a reply to a tweet saying that Jones regressed from last season.

Prior to Thursday’s game, a pair of former NFL quarterbacks also voiced similar concerns about Jones playing under the Patriots’ offensive coaching setup to ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

“It’s hard to watch him this year because I don’t think they’re helping him out very much,” Matt Hasselbeck told Reiss. “I thought he did a really great job last year – the best quarterback in his class – and he hasn’t been nearly as good this year.”

Hasselbeck added that “I know Mac Jones can play. We saw it all last year.”

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner dissected Jones and the Patriots’ offense in his “StudyBall” breakdown this week. Breaking down the film from the Patriots’ loss to the Vikings, Warner believes that Jones is overthinking plays at times because plays aren’t developing enough, adding about the Patriots’ offense “it’s about timing and it’s about details, and that to me is what this offense is lacking more than anything else.”

Warner told Reiss that the Patriots should “challenge” Jones more mentally and be more creative with play calls, especially in the red zone.

“One of the things I loved about Mac last year is that he’s so good at processing information. Sometimes last year I thought he processed information too fast, meaning he got off certain reads too quickly because they hadn’t developed,” Warner told Reiss. “This year, I think they’ve kind of taken his superpower away because they’ve simplified everything.”

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The former quarterbacks and players weren’t alone in their criticism of the Patriots’ offense. Even wide receiver Kendrick Bourne expressed frustration with the offense’s approach in their loss to the Bills.

New England’s offense ranks among the worst in several metrics this season. It’s 25th in overall offense and 20th in scoring. In terms of efficiency, the Patriots’ ranks 25th in weighted DVOA.

The Patriots still have five games left in the season to right the ship and they’re 6-6. Though they’ve got a tough road if they want Jones and the rest of the offense to get back to the level they were at last season, in which they ranked seventh in scoring and fifth in weighted DVOA. Following a West Coast trip with games against the Cardinals and Raiders, the Patriots close out the season with games against the Bengals, Dolphins, and Bills.

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