Bill Belichick has established himself as one of the most successful head coaches in NFL history, but that hasn't kept him safe from criticism in the post-Tom Brady era.
While Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title in his first year with the team, Belichick and the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Predictably, that led to plenty of hot takes about Belichick's coaching ability without Brady as his quarterback.
So far in 2021, Mac Jones has helped to put that narrative to bed. The rookie quarterback helped the Patriots improve to 6-4 on the season after a brilliant performance in Sunday's rout of the Cleveland Browns. Of the five first-round quarterbacks selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jones unquestionably has been the most impressive.
If you ask former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, Belichick should be thanking his lucky stars that Jones fell in his lap at No. 15 overall.
"Mac Jones has really saved Bill Belichick in a lot of ways," Johnson said on NBC Sports Boston's Sports Sunday. "I'd say he maybe saved his legacy, because it's been a long time, maybe two years, since it's felt like the old Patriots and it finally feels like the old Patriots are now here. A big reason is because of Mac Jones.
"Mac Jones, who was the 15th pick in this year's draft, I'm not so sure Bill wanted to draft him at that position. I'm not so sure he wanted to start him at the beginning of the season if Cam Newton didn't have a COVID issue. And so, to me, Mac Jones has really helped save a lot of criticism that was going Bill Belichick's way."
Suggesting Jones "saved" Belichick's legacy might be a little strong, but there's no doubt the Alabama product has helped to quiet the absurd "he can't win without Brady!" takes. Jones has put the Patriots in a position to sneak back into the postseason while inserting himself in the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation.
He'll look to stay hot when the Patriots visit the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.
Watch the full Sports Sunday segment with Johnson below: