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Herbstreit makes compelling case for 'surgeon' Mac Jones

/ by Jennifer Lee Chan
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On the same day that 49ers representatives were at Justin Fields’ second pro day, Kirk Herbstreit made a case for what Mac Jones brings to the table. 

While coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch observed the Ohio State quarterback throw the ball in person Wednesday, the ESPN college football analyst shared his thoughts with national media on what makes Jones special. 

Though the Crimson Tide signal caller might be less athletic than his fellow draft classmates, Jones more than makes up for it in his ability to think on his feet in game situations 

“Mac Jones is a surgeon,” Herbstreit said. “Of all these guys, because of the offense he is coming out of, he probably processes as quickly as anyone coming out in this draft. By processing, recognizing pre-snap coverage. 

“If they change coverage at the snap of the ball, being able to instantly know where to go with the ball without any hesitation. That to me is the secret sauce of these guys that go to another level. How quickly they can read such complexity on the run.”

Herbstreit went on to share conversations he had with then-Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who explained how the offense was different with Jones than when Tua Tagovailoa was under center.  

 

Instead of the high level of run-pass options (RPO’s) that the team utilized with Tagovailoa behind the line, Sarkisian and Jones had to adjust to different personnel on the field. They “pounded the ball” with running back Najee Harris and used more play-action with Devonta Smith taking various receiver roles around the offense. 

Sarkisian explained to Herbstreit that while the wanted to keep the offense similar to what they had success with in 2019, it evolved according to the personnel they had available, and in the end looked very different. 

“Mac Jones all through that never wavered,” Herbstreit said. “They adjusted things every week, they changed things around, and they were allowed to do that because of his ability to understand the offense. 

“He really takes the time to study football, play book and understanding film and how things work. He was right there, ran aligned with Sark on everything he did. His accuracy on top of that with the ability to make quick decisions is just special. It’s the best way to describe it.”

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Shanahan, who is well known for dissecting game film and the “why” behind every player’s role on each play, likely finds this attribute a huge benefit. Jones might just be the perfect match for the cerebral head coach. 

“I don’t care that he had a lot of talent around him or that guys were wide open,” Herbstreit said. “The kid distributed the ball to people who were open, made good decisions and consistently was accurate.  

“He’s got an assassin’s mindset on the field. He wants to eliminate you, much like Joe Burrow the year before. There’s a lot to fall in love with.”