FOXBORO, MA — There wasn’t a lot to like about the 2022 Patriots season, from the coaching, to the product on the field. Which is why almost everything in 2023 is being billed as a “fresh start” as training camp kicked off at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. Including the relationship between quarterback Mac Jones, and head coach Bill Belichick.
“No, I think we’re good,” Jones said when asked if there were any bad feelings remaining from the 2022 debacle between him and Belichick. “I think the biggest thing that we’ve all talked about is just having a fresh start. I think there’s a lot of learning experiences from last year that we’ve talked about. And this year, it’s all about just working together, right? You’ve gotta come up with a plan and then obviously talk about it and then execute it. So I’m excited for that part of it. ”
— Patriots on CLNS (@PatriotsCLNS) July 26, 2023
The biggest point of contention between quarterback and coach last season revolved around the offensive coaching infrastructure, or lack thereof. The offense along with Mac Jones’ year two development, was put in the hands of the defensive minded Matt Patricia and the inexperienced Joe Judge. Jones’ frustration with that situation reportedly caused friction between him and Belichick.
Back during mini-camp Jones was asked about Belichick’s current involvement with the offense. Rather than answer directly Jones lauded the head coach’s defensive acumen before pivoting to the job newly inserted offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has done with the offense. Asked a similar question on Wednesday Jones responded a similar way.
“Yeah, I think he’s done a great job,” Jones said of Belichick. “I think at the end of the day he does a great job explaining defenses and all those things that can help a quarterback, and especially in the red zone because it’s a little bit tighter down there. But yeah, I think [Bill O’Brien] does a great job as well explaining everything, and Evan [Rothstein]. So it’s kind of those three guys that you can lean on and obviously the players too, right? You can ask the players questions, and I think it’s great that our defense is really good and it makes it hard. It’s gonna be a great camp because we’re gonna go back and forth hopefully, and just battle with each other.”
Jones clearly seems amped about adding O’Brien to the offensive mix. While the change in coaching should give Jones a better chance of success than he had last season under Patricia and Judge, it also eliminates any excuses should he underperform yet again this season.
“Yeah, I think just for me I’m self motivated and all of those things comes from within,” Jones said. “And just trying to be the best version of me. I hope my teammates can see that. I’m just going to grind it out and hopefully I can bring a lot of people along with me. That’s the big thing. You’re the quarterback, and at the end of the day when we’re on that field, they need to feel confident in me, and I need to feel confident in them. I think that’s built through trust.
“I think that’s the big word here for this training camp is trust. That’s going to come through trial and error, that’s going to come through good and bad, so it’s not always going to be great. So, just having that positive mindset and just kind of staying the course and running my race and bringing people along with me.”
Here is the full transcript of Mac Jone’s Press Conference from today…
Q: Given that Bill O’Brien is your third offensive coordinator in three years, how have you been able to grow without letting that instability hinder your development?
MJ: I think it’s great. I think it’s a great challenge. I always talk about my time at Alabama and I was fortunate to play for some really good coordinators. Obviously, I crossed paths with [Bill O’Brien] there, so I’m definitely excited. I definitely think we’ve got a lot of stuff we’ve got to work on, and I just feel like we have a good mojo going. But, at the end of the day, it’s the first day and we’ve got to stack days together.
Q: It looked like you guys were doing a lot of red zone early on today. How’s the progression been over the course of time with something like that where you guys struggled last year?
MJ: I think that’s a great way to put it. I think just trying to get better in the red zone is a big emphasis every year. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always started down there and I know Coach [Bill] Belichick has always done that. I think it’s really smart because at the end of the day, a lot of defenses, they let you get down there, and then when you get down there, they want to shut you down. So, to be able to go against our defense, who is very multiple and does a lot compared to some teams, it’s good to experience it and it’s good to watch the tape. Day one is all about watching the tape and seeing what you can adjust, right? So, getting everybody back together, the vets, the rooks, everybody. So, I feel like the red zone is a great area and we definitely need to improve. I need to improve down there. Things happen quick and it all comes from practice.
Q: Mac, you’ve always been good at self analysis. Taking a look at what you personally did last year, the things you know you did not do well, what do you come into this year thinking, for yourself, that you want to improve on and know you need improvement on?
MJ: I think every season, right, regardless of what sport you’re playing, what you’re doing or your job, you’re trying to become better at what you do. For me, it’s just a lot of listening, taking everything in and really just working hard. I’m just trying to try new things in the offseason, but once I come out here and once we come out here as a team, at the end of the day you’re running through these plays trying to just get a feel for them. You’re obviously going to try some new things, but you want to come out and play free. That’s the biggest thing, is don’t overthink anything and just go out there and play the game that we know.
Q: Mac, during that red zone period, we saw Bill Belichick kind of hovering and kind of right next to you there. How closely have you been working with him in the spring and now into camp here?
MJ: I think he’s done a great job. I think at the end of the day, he does a great job explaining defenses and all those things that can help a quarterback, especially in the red zone because it’s a little bit tighter down there. But, yeah, I think [Bill O’Brien] does a great job as well, just explaining everything, and Evan [Rothstein], so it’s kind of those three guys that you can lean on. Obviously the players, too, right? You can ask the players questions, and I think it’s great that our defense is really good. It makes it hard. It’s going to be a great camp because we’re going to go back and forth, hopefully, and just battle with each other.
Q: A lot of your teammates have said to me that you’ve sort of embraced the change and have been energized by the change in coordinators. What is it about it that has sort of given you a little bit more of a pep in your step, if you will?
MJ: I think just for me, I’m definitely self-motivated and all those things come from within. I’m just trying to be the best version of me, and I hope my teammates can see that. I’m going to just grind it out and hopefully, I can bring a lot of people along with me. That’s the big thing, right? You’re the quarterback, and at the end of the day when we’re on that field, they need to feel confident in me and I need to feel confident in them. I think that’s built through trust; I think that’s the big word here for this training camp is trust. That’s going to come through trial and error, it’s going to come through good and bad, so it’s not always going to be great. So, just having that positive mindset and just kind of staying the course, running my race and bringing people along with me.
Q: Mac, were you disappointed to see DeAndre Hopkins join the Titans, and how confident are you in the receivers that you still have here?
MJ: I think DeAndre’s a great player, and I know he’s going to do great down there. So, for us, I think we have a great group and that’s what we’re trying to do is mold together. I think we have great tight ends, receivers and backs, so we definitely have great depth and we’re going to work together to talk about the routes, what we like and what we don’t like. We got some guys who have played a lot of snaps in the NFL in the receiver room, and so I’m just trying to learn from them, really, and talk. Tell them how I see it, but also, at the end of the day, how they see it because that’s important, too. So, yeah, that comes through film and just talking in the locker room and watching it out here on the practice field.
Q: How is the process going with JuJu [Smith-Schuster] now that he’s back out here on the field?
MJ: Yeah, good. I think like I said, JuJu loves football and you can see the juice that he brings. He’s definitely really embraced everything; he’s working really hard, always doing the right thing, so we just got to be consistent. I know that he can bring that veteran leadership; that’s one of the guys I’m talking about when I say, “played a lot of snaps in the NFL.” So, just to hear his experience, whether it’s with other quarterbacks, coordinators or against other defenses, it’s really cool just because I like to pick people’s brains as well. So, I’m really happy to have him and the guys that we have in that room.
Q: How would you characterize your relationship with Coach Belichick? I know last year there was maybe some frustration, disagreement on both sides on the best way to get things done?
MJ: No, I think we’re good. I think the biggest thing that we’ve all talked about is just having a fresh start. I think there’s a lot of learning experiences from last year that we’ve talked about and this year, it’s all about just working together, right? You’ve got to come up with a plan, obviously talk about it, and then execute it. So, I’m excited for that part of it. For me, I’m just trying to be really consistent, try not to ride the wave, just stay my course and hopefully, everybody on our offense feels that, too. I think Coach O’Brien does a great job laying out what we do well so far, and we’re going to learn every day what we do well and then from there, you just keep moving forward and execute the plan. So, I’m definitely excited for that.
Q: Day one of training camp, I know. What is a successful season going to look like, to you, this year?
MJ: Oh, that’s a long way away, you know? It’s kind of hard; we just started our first day, so really, I know it’s cliché, but just focus on tomorrow, recovering and watching the film. That’s how you do it, right? You can’t focus on the future. I know it’s hard, right? You obviously want to lay out your goals, but at the same time you’ve got to be present, especially with us. We put in a lot of plays each day, we do a lot of things, work really hard. You guys saw us working; we’ve just got to do that every day, come together and eventually, hopefully, that’s what it turns into, right? You don’t want to not have those goals, but we’re really just focused on today and tomorrow.
Q: I don’t know if you heard what Matthew Slater said yesterday, but he talked about how the last few years haven’t been up to the standards of what previous Patriots’ teams have had. He said it hasn’t been that fun, and that there’s no more excuses this year. I’m curious what your thoughts are on that message.
MJ: I think Slater’s a great teammate, a great leader and we go as he goes. So, we definitely want to do better at that stuff and try to keep it positive.
Q: Mac, we just spoke to Matt Groh and he talked about the level of free agents that are still out there on the market. Why do you believe that the Patriots are still a destination for guys that are still out there unsigned?
MJ: Honestly, that’s well above my pay grade. Maybe one day. But, I think I always try to focus on the guys we have and once again, relating back to college, I was fortunate to play with great players and I have great players on this team now. Guys come and go, you know? When you’re a freshman in college and you grow up to be a senior, new guys come in and old guys leave. So, it’s been great to do the same here. I mean, we’ve got a bunch of new guys and a bunch of veteran players who have played a lot. Just learning from them and trying to come together, I think all of that stuff’s taken care of and at the end of the day, we’ve just got to go out there, improve on the things we need to improve on and focus on what we can control.
Q: How has your relationship with Hunter Henry evolved as you guys embrace your third season together?
MJ: Hunter’s awesome. I think that’s another player who’s played a lot of snaps, and he just has a really good feel for the game. He’s an instinctual player and he brings the same “him” every day. I know that’s kind of weird to say, but he’s just Hunter. He comes in, positive energy, he doesn’t complain about anything, he just works. That’s something that I really try to follow and follow his lead because he set the plate for that.
Q: Mac, what’s your level of excitement? I know you said it’s day one, but heading into the season, just your level of excitement?
MJ: I think every year of football, that’s why you play, right? The key, for me, is trying to just take it day by day and not get too up or down. Just take things as they come and I know for a lot of guys, some guys, this is their 14th, 15th training camp or whatever in the NFL, on top of however long they’ve played football. So, for me I think of it the same way. I’ve played since I was 5 years old, so I’ve had a lot of chances to have a first day and kind of get into a season. So, I’m definitely excited, but just got to approach it very cerebral and just do my thing.