There’s no on-field reason for Cam Newton to ever take a meaningful, regular-season snap for the Patriots while Mac Jones is upright and able.
The week-to-week, day-to-day, play-to-play competency of Jones for the past three weeks has, in my estimation (and those of most of the people watching every rep), put to bed all debate about who is the better quarterback for the Patriots in 2021.
Jones' performance Wednesday in the Patriots' 150-minute joint practice with the Giants? It tucked the debate in and turned out the light.
While Newton idled after his COVID protocol violation, Jones had to do EVERYTHING in 90-plus degree heat with humidity that made it feel like we were inside a whale’s mouth.
Between warmups, drills, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11s, I counted close to 175 throws by Jones on Wednesday. Between the competitive 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, Jones was 29 for 32.
And there’s no more wondering about when Jones will get the work with the ones. He gets all the work with the ones now. Against the ones. And he’s absurdly effective.
Jones probably had a total of six not-so-great plays on Wednesday. Everything else was between acceptable and excellent. A quarterback, like a doctor, must first do no harm. That’s Jones’ forte.
But it’s not his solo strength. Accuracy, decision-making, anticipation, leadership, pre-snap acumen -- all of that shows up every single practice. Meanwhile, Newton hasn’t been able to show up at all for the last three days.
The only plausible reason for not putting the better player on the field would be because the Patriots were afraid of some ginned-up, off-field Boogeyman. Concern over Jones’ confidence if he stubs his toe. Imagined loyalty to Newton, despite the fact the Patriots were the only team that came knocking last June when Newton was out of work.
When “Doing what’s best for the football team” is the stated objective of every decision, you can contort yourself so any choice is defensible in the long-term or short-term.
If the standard to be satisfied was, “The best players play…”? We wouldn’t be having this discussion anymore.
One more thing worth noting is that there should be no shame for Newton in getting beaten out by Mac Jones if it indeed happens. The way he’s gone since he got here would have beaten out a whole lot of NFL starters. Name two hypotheticals? Jimmy Garoppolo and Daniel Jones.
On Wednesday, Jones all but rested his case. The time remaining for Newton’s closing argument has been frittered away. Further questions? None here.