TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's worth paying attention to Mac Jones' commentary on Josh McDaniels this week. Based on how things have gone for the Patriots this season, what sounds like clichéd attempts to acknowledge the good times of 2021 may also be interpreted as what-might've-been laments applicable to 2022.
"Josh is a great coach," Jones told WEEI's Merloni, Fauria, and Mego on Tuesday. "Pushed me really hard and coached me hard. We worked together, and we were with each other every day and working hard.
"He expects a lot out of his players and he’s a smart, smart guy. He’s got a great memory, great recall. He remembers things from certain games and all that stuff. Definitely a great coach and looking forward to going against him this weekend."
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It has felt like Jones has been asking for more from the Patriots coaching staff for some time now so his tip-of-the-cap to McDaniels for coaching him "hard" is noteworthy.
After a Week 13 loss to the Bills, for instance, Jones asked for more hard coaching.
"I think it's accountability," Jones said at the time when he was asked about what is holding the Patriots offense back. "It starts with me. I think I want to be coached harder. I want to be a better player. The coaches have given us everything they've got. They've done everything to put us in position to win. But I want to hold everybody accountable, including myself ...
"We've just got to go out there and do it together. That starts in practice. 'Hey, I didn't do this right. Call me out for it. Tell me that I'm wrong.' If you're a good leader, you can accept that. You can look at the other guy and say the same thing to him that he says to you.
"The best players in the world at any sport, they have that accountability with their teammates. That's something that we need to have that's better. Obviously, the coaches are a big part of it, but it really starts with the players. Clearly I haven't done a good enough job of doing my part in that."
While taking a lot of the blame, Jones mentioned coaching on multiple occasions. He wanted more.
That was something he indicated back in September when he talked about wanting to know the "purpose" behind play-calls. He didn't always know why calls were called when they were, he explained.
"I think just for me, the biggest thing is, what's the play and what's the purpose of the play?" Jones said at the time. "As long as I know the purpose, I have the green light to do what I'm supposed to do. If I don't know the purpose and we still call it, we're probably just trying to see the play and there's other reasons why we're trying to do it. So for me that's always been my thing: 'What do you want me to do as the quarterback to make this a successful play?'"
Players wanting more from the coaching staff was a feeling that has persisted into the stretch run of the season, based on my understanding of the situation headed into the Cardinals game.
Individuals in the locker room felt as though they needed to do more to ensure that they were properly prepared. They planned on being more intentional with the coaching staff in their pursuit of the kinds of details required to have consistent offensive success.
But that kind of hold-each-other-accountable relationship requires an openness from the staff to engage in a back-and-forth with players. Are Matt Patricia and Joe Judge coaches who would exhibit the kind of willingness to hand over some ownership of the offense to their players? Are they all open to collaborating, as Jones indicated to WEEI that McDaniels was? ("We worked together," he said of his former offensive coordinator.)
Kendrick Bourne told me after Monday night's win that sometimes "tough conversations" have to happen between coaches and players for there to be growth. And that may be true year in and year out.
But it sure seems like those hard conversations are more the norm this season compared to when McDaniels -- who Bourne, Jones and the Patriots will be competing against on Sunday -- was running the Patriots offense.