PHOENIX -- Don’t spend all your time focusing on what Mac Jones can’t do, says NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell. Stop coveting thy neighbor’s dual-threat quarterback.
Instead, understand that Jones' strength -- when the Patriots tap it properly -- will be seen not in singular plays but in 60 minutes of high-level competency.
"When I evaluate a quarterback, I evaluate whether he can play at a high level snap after snap after snap," Cosell said Wednesday during an interview at Super Bowl XLVII Radio Row. "Not to make a ‘play’ that we see on SportsCenter 20 times, but to play the position the right way snap after snap.
"Mac Jones is ultimately that style of quarterback. You can’t compare Mac Jones and Josh Allen. That’s a pointless conversation. Mac Jones is a certain kind of player who’s gifted in some ways. But if you’re talking about pure physical traits which are different than others playing the position, that’s Josh Allen. That’s Justin Herbert. That’s not the way Mac Jones plays the position."
Patriots Talk: Making the most of Mac Jones with Greg Cosell and Mike Lombardi | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube
Cosell understands yearning for a quarterback who can win with with his arm or his legs like Allen, Herbert or the two players squaring off in the Super Bowl: Jalen Hurts and future Hall of Famer Patrick Mahomes.
But there aren’t enough of those to go around. So if you don’t have one who can out-run or out-throw, you better have one that can out-think. And Jones, Cosell says, can.
"Does one believe that in today’s NFL you need to be able to make those out-of-structure, secondary reaction, improvisational plays in order to reach that higher level? That’s a debate. Mac Jones isn’t going to carry a team making great individual plays on a week-to-week basis.
"One of his positive traits is he can play well before the snap of the ball. I think that’s become increasingly important in the NFL. In today’s NFL, with the use of so many 'sub' defenses, you have to be really good before the snap. The great ones win more often than not before the ball is snapped. That’s a strength of Mac Jones. He’s a cerebral player. He can figure all that stuff out. He’s smart. He’s accurate.
"You don’t need a hose to be a great quarterback. And you don’t need to be a ‘great’ quarterback. There’s not 20 transcendent quarterbacks. So you can’t say you will stink if you don’t have one of those guys. You still have to line up and play. And that comes to the structure of the whole team and the structure of the offense."
Which, of course means the offensive collaborative has to be high-level. Beginning with its coordination. Cosell is bullish on what the Bill O’Brien hiring means for Jones.
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"(Presnap reads and accuracy) is what Mac Jones’ game is and he’s very good at that," said Cosell. "I’m very anxious to see Mac Jones with Bill O’Brien this year. I think Bill has a really good feel for schemes and concepts. I think Bill has a good feel for different formations. He’s always liked the empty sets and I think a quarterback like Mac Jones can thrive in empty sets."
For the past two seasons, O’Brien was at Alabama coaching Jones’ Crimson Tide successor Bryce Young. Young won the Heisman in 2021 and may wind up being the No. 1 overall pick in April.
"I’ve gotten to know Bryce Young and he raves about Bill O’Brien," said Cosell. "He just loves everything about the way he teaches the position, coaches the position. He said he’s hard but he’s fair. Bryce wants to be coached hard and I think Mac (wants to be coached hard as well)."
Still, I countered, Jones hasn’t shown the ability in the NFL to go and "win" a game that’s hanging in the balance. For instance, when it’s first-and-10 at your own 20 with ninety seconds left and you trail by four, does Jones have enough different skills to beat a good defense?
"Can you also win by making really good throws?" Cosell replied. "Throw out an abstract example. We know Mahomes can beat pressure by moving and making those special plays. What happens if, in that situation, Mac Jones comes to the line and he sees that blitz and he changes the play and drills a 17-yard completion to a wide receiver and you don’t even know what he did at the line that prevented him from having to run for it?
"Mac Jones has a lot of positive traits. It comes down to what do you ascribe the most value to when you make your list of traits. And when you do that, what does the rest of the team need to look like?"
The Patriots have already taken two big steps this offseason to changing the look of their team on the sideline. An offensive coordinator. A new offensive line coach. Those moves should immediately change what the product on the field looks like.