Welcome to the Mac Era

By Brendan Beauregard, Assistant Sports Editor

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The battle for the New England Patriots starting quarterback position has reached its end. But unlike the battle of Helm’s Deep that ended with a roar, this fight ended with a tweet from The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride Tuesday morning

Mac Jones, New England’s first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, now has the one football to rule them all. The rookie quarterback from the University of Alabama won the starter job against 2020 Patriots starting quarterback Cam Newton. While Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said time and time again throughout the summer that Newton will be the starter, it’s Jones in the starter seat. A seat Jones certainly earned.

Consider No. 10’s performance in the preseason. In New England’s first exhibition against the Washington Football Team, Jones completed 13 of 19 passes for 87 yards per ESPN—leading two Patriots drives to field goals.

The next preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles saw Jones continue his consistent performance—completing 13 of 19 passes again for 146 yards this time per ESPN. Along with that, three out of the four drives Jones played in led to New England touchdowns, including an impressive 91-yard drive.

All in all, Jones’ preseason stat line was 36 of 52 passes completed, 389 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. 

Yes, preseason football is not regular season football. You’re not gonna see the same level of competition games that count. Still, Jones’ steady play, solid accuracy, and some picture-perfect throws he made are helping his case–even if some throws were incomplete like this one to N’Keal Harry

Newton’s up and down preseason could’ve well likely played a factor in Belichick’s decision. Playing against Washington, Newton went four of seven for 47 yards in two drives according to ESPN–one leading to a quick three and out and the other to a field goal. 

The former No. 1 did improve facing Philadelphia, completing eight of nine passes for 103 yards and a touchdown pass per ESPN. That improvement seemed to go right out the window when Newton went a meager two of five for 10 yards and an interception in the preseason finale vs the New York Giants per ESPN.

Newton, who is not vaccinated for COVID-19, also missed five days due to a “misunderstanding” related to COVID-19 tests conducted away from the team. 

Newton once had the reliable talent and experience to play well. Patriots fans saw those good Newton performances last season against the Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Chargers. But we can’t forget Newton’s awful 2020 games against the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Rams, and Buffalo Bills.

Patriots fans knew there was a chance Newton could dial the clocks back and turn in a vintage Newton showing—running and throwing the ball. But Newton had plenty of moments in 2020 of inaccuracy and turnovers—including 10 interceptions and six fumbles per ESPN. To quote what Larry David tells Mocha Joe in Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Nobody likes a wobbly table.” Consistency is important and Cam couldn’t give that to the Patriots.

Looking at how the offense flowed between the two quarterbacks, Jones’ playing style meshed better with New England’s offensive mindset. The Patriots’ offense seems to operate more efficiently when the quarterback is of the pocket passer mold. That’s what Jones is unlike Newton’s scrambler style.

Bringing Newton in last season was an understandable move by Belichick. However, Newton was simply a placeholder for the next era. That new era arrived.

So congratulations, Mac Jones. You defeated a former NFL MVP and became the official face of the post-Tom Brady chapter in the Patriots history book. Go earn your orange slices week one against Miami.