Mac Jones said after the New England Patriots' Week 13 loss to the Buffalo Bills that he wanted to be coached harder. But during the second-year quarterback's tumultuous season, coaches reportedly were told to back off.
FOX Sports' Henry McKenna reports Patriots coaches "were instructed not to be too hard on Jones in an effort to protect him from being too critical of himself." A team source also told McKenna that "there was an issue in 2021 with Jones struggling after getting yelled at."
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The 2022 season was a challenging one both physically and mentally for Jones. The 24-year-old was forced to adjust to a new offense coached by Matt Patricia and Joe Judge instead of Josh McDaniels. In Week 3, he sustained a high ankle sprain that kept him out the next three weeks and sparked Zappe Fever. Rookie backup QB Bailey Zappe won fans over by leading the Patriots to consecutive wins over the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns.
When Jones returned from injury in Week 7, he struggled while fans at Gillette Stadium chanted "We Want Zappe." Bill Belichick pulled Jones after three drives and went with Zappe the rest of the way.
Jones held on to the starting job from there, but his frustrations boiled over late in the season. On multiple occasions, Jones was caught on the television broadcast wearing his emotions on his sleeve. The season ended on a sour note as the Patriots fell to the Bills and missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.
According to McKenna, the team source suggested "in hindsight, it might have been a mistake to go easy on the quarterback." The Patriots already have taken a major step to remedy that mistake by hiring Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
For what it's worth, longtime Patriots captain Devin McCourty gave Jones a strong vote of confidence on Monday.
"I think he's the future of New England," McCourty said on NFL Network. "Any doubts, I think you’re wrong if you don’t think that. I think he's the future. He’s in that building right now doing different things, working with guys, talking to guys; that’s what he wants. He wants to be that quarterback."
With better -- and more strict -- coaching, Jones will look to reestablish himself as one of the top young QBs in the league. Year 3 will be a pivotal season for Jones as he'll be eligible for a contract extension after the 2023 season, and the Patriots will have until May 2024 to pick up his fifth-year option.