When Cam Newton's release cleared the way for Mac Jones to be the New England Patriots' starting quarterback, the reaction was mostly positive. Still, some are skeptical of the decision to throw the rookie into the fire.
Count Jermaine Wiggins as one of those skeptics. The former Patriots tight end and co-host of WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" believes cutting Newton and putting the season in Jones' hands is a move Bill Belichick will soon regret.
"I think it’s a huge mistake and it has the potential to be really ugly," Wiggins said Wednesday on NBC Sports Boston's Early Edition. "The fact that you’re handing the keys to your organization to a rookie, on a team that we all expected based on what they did in the offseason has got to be a playoff-caliber football team. Every rookie quarterback is going to deal with growing pains, is going to deal with, you know what, now I’m in the NFL, it’s no longer preseason. They’re the disguising coverages, they’re blitzing, they’re doing all types of things that I’ve never seen before. And it’s just gonna take time for Mac to see certain things.
"And guess what? The time that it might take might be the difference between wins and losses, and the pressure that you’re putting on this kid, on a team that is expected to make the postseason based on the players that they have in that locker room. If he comes out and he plays bad, you don’t think all eyes are gonna be on him in the media? And there might be some guys in that locker room going, well, did you make the right decision? Did we rush this kid in too early to play?
"That’s the only issue that I have when you’re dealing with a rookie quarterback and basically saying we have a playoff team. You don’t know how that’s gonna affect them if things tend to go wrong or if there tend to be issues with (what) most rookie quarterbacks to deal with."
Belichick's decision to roll with Jones is a vote of confidence in a first-round pick who impressed throughout training camp and preseason. Growing pains are expected for the Alabama product, but ultimately his upside and ability to quickly adjust to the Patriots' scheme gave him the edge over the veteran who struggled throughout last season.
Jones will look to prove Wiggins and other doubters wrong starting Sept. 12, when the Patriots host the Miami Dolphins in their regular-season opener. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET.
Hear everything Wiggins had to say in the video above.