With quarterback the most important position for any NFL team, it’s no surprise that a quarterback was at the heart of the fracture between former Patriots coach Bill Belichick and ownership.
Yes, there was reportedly consternation over Belichick’s assessment of Brady when the team let him walk away in 2020. As noted by ESPN.com in a deep dive regarding the collapse of the Patriot Way, owner Robert Kraft was dismayed after Brady went to Tampa and got his seventh ring.
“Bill had told me he couldn’t play anymore,” Kraft reportedly said.
The very next draft, Belichick picked Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Then, Belichick ruined Jones, entrusting his future development to Matt Patricia (a defensive coach) and Joe Judge (a special-teams coach). It was a disaster, as most thought it would be before Belichick did it.
Along the way, the relationship between Belichick and Jones crumbled. We reported in April that Belichick had shopped Jones in the offseason. The ESPN.com article reports that Belichick raised the idea of trading Jones with ownership. Ownership wanted to keep him, per the report. (Belichick had the authority to trade Jones, and definitely the ability to call around to see what kind of a return Jones might have generated.)
The ESPN.com article also suggests that Belichick kept playing Jones in 2023, even after it seemed he should be benched, as a middle finger to Kraft.
While we can’t vouch for the full content of the ESPN.com article (the fact that Jack Easterby is identified as a former member of Belichick’s “core brain trust” is jarring, frankly, but possibly nothing more than a favor to a source), the Mac Jones angle is and was real. Belichick’s miscalculations regarding the direction of the offensive coaching staff caused a regression for Jones, and quite possibly provided the moment at which Robert Kraft decided it was just a matter of time before the organization moved in a new direction.
Which it now has. Jones is still there, however. He’s under contract for another year. A decision on his fifth-year option looms. It will become very interesting to see what the post-Belichick Patriots will do with Jones.
If the Patriots can turn Jones around, that would be an appropriate middle finger back to Belichick.
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