The 2021 schedule is out, so now we ask: When can we pencil some Mac Jones time?
No, not in the way we got Jarrett Stidham time last season in the second halves of disastrous Cam Newton performances. I’m talking about when the Patriots make Jones, the guy they (possibly begrudgingly) took with the 15th overall pick, their starting quarterback.
Take a look at the schedule and see what makes sense. I’ve got four possibilities below.
Mac Jones vs. Tua Tagovailoa in Week 1. A showdown of the Alabama quarterback room with one major question hovering above it: Are either of them good? Sounds fun, no?
You’d get good odds on this, as Cam Newton is a pretty heavy betting favorite to be the Week 1 starter. Given that there’s a Jets game in Week 2, Jones would be able to start his career either 1-1 or 2-0 before a tossup against the Saints. It would also cement him as the guy for that Week 4 meeting with Tom Brady.
This would make a lot of sense. You’d presumably be coming off a loss to the Bucs at home, and your next five opponents are the Texans, Cowboys, Jets, Chargers and Panthers. That’s about as good a landing spot for a rookie quarterback as there is.
Here’s what might get in the way: Bill Belichick’s stubbornness. If the Patriots get smoked by Tom Brady in Week 4, couldn’t you see him refusing to play into the mania by making a QB change afterwards? How many times did it make sense to go to Stidham last season, only for Belichick to stick with Newton? Belichick likes things to be his call, not the peanut gallery’s.
This would be similar to what the Dolphins did last year, albeit much later. The Dolphins were contending for a playoff spot, but made a change at quarterback during their bye week to set up Tua Tagovailoa as their starter for Week 8. The move didn’t work out in the short term, as the team missed the playoffs in part due to Tagovailoa being a downgrade from Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play.
There are successful cases of teams switching to a young quarterback during the season and making the playoffs, from the Patriots following Drew Bledsoe’s injury to the 49ers switching from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.
Making the switch for Week 15 would give the Patriots the Week 14 bye to further prepare Jones.
This would be a logical point if the Pats did miss the playoffs. If they’re out of it by this point, giving Jones the Jaguars and Dolphins to wrap up the season would make sense.