'You want to close the gap on perfect:' Mac Jones talks Tom Brady and why he works so hard
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots are out on the practice field when, at that moment, the offensive play doesn't go as planned. Maybe there was a penalty, dropped pass or a player ran the wrong route. Whatever the mistake, Mac Jones won't stand for it.
Before any coaches could speak up, Jones would issue a simple demand:
"Do it over again."
For offensive tackle Trent Brown, it was startling at first. As a rookie quarterback, Jones doesn't act like a first-year player. He has confidence and swagger. He's smart enough to learn the Patriots' playbook in his first offseason. He has the ability to read an opposing defense and throw a perfect pass in tight coverage. All those reasons are why Jones beat out Cam Newton for the Patriots' starting quarterback job and will start in the team's season opener Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
And those reasons are also why teammates are confident in their quarterback.
"If a play doesn't go exactly right or how we drew it up in the meeting room and we get out there and it doesn't go exactly as planned, on his own without coach saying anything, he'll say, 'Do it over,' and with some authority," Brown said. "As a young guy, that's pretty cool to see."
Those moments in practice make up part of what drives this quarterback. He's aiming to be perfect. The 23-year-old doesn't want to expect anything less.
"I think practice especially, you kind of have a picture of how it's supposed to go in your head and you want everything to be perfect," Jones said. "And it's not always going to be perfect, especially in the games, but sometimes I'll mess something up and I'm like, 'Dang, let's just run that back.' Even if it was one little thing just to make sure we're good on it. And the goal is to not have to do that at all, but it happens. It's part of practice. ... You want to close the gap on perfect."
Jones' debut this season undoubtedly will cause a lot of fanfare. The 15th-overall selection already has lofty expectations despite not having played in a single regular-season NFL game. Despite all the things that can go wrong for a rookie quarterback, Patriots players in Foxboro continue to remain confident in their teammate.
On Wednesday, center David Andrews said Jones has "done a great job coming in and taking ownership" of the Patriots offense. Safety Devin McCourty said that coming from Alabama, where you're expected to win a national championship every year, has prepared Jones for the type of expectations he currently has as the next starting quarterback of the Patriots.
"He comes from that," McCourty said.
"The best thing about him is he's come in here, put his head down and worked. He's earned the respect from all of his teammates with his work ethic and preparation."
The background at Alabama, where Jones won a championship, has certainly helped. And the expectations in New England have a lot to do with Tom Brady. That's a name that's impossible to live up to for any quarterback in the NFL, never mind a rookie. Jones, however, has accepted the challenge head-on. When he was drafted, he set out to watch as much Patriots film as possible. Of course, that included Brady.
When he was asked about following in Brady's footsteps, Jones said there's a standard set in Foxboro he wants to live up to.
"Yeah, I think obviously he's a great player. And, yeah, the word standard kind of hit me there because we all want to play to that standard — the Patriot way," Jones said. "And, really, it comes down to just doing your job, so as a quarterback, that's leading the people around me as best I can. And that's also executing the play, so hand it off or throw it. That's pretty much what it comes down to."
In regard to the film Jones watched on the future Hall of Famer, the rookie said: "He did a really, really good job. Hopefully, I can do a good job, too."
Jones said he's driven by "winning and having fun," explaining that one usually brings the other. That's why he works so hard in practice. That's why when there's a mistake, Jones needs to step, reset and do it over again. This rookie is driving toward perfection. That might be impossible in the NFL. You can say the same about living up to the legend of Tom Brady.
Jones appears to be up to the task. It's clear his teammates believe.
"Quarterback position, Tom's here 20 years," McCourty said. "There's so much hype outside of this building. But I think he's done a good job just focusing on what's going on here day-to-day — what we need to do to be a good football team and trying to win games."
"I tell him he's not a rookie," Brown said. "This is his offense and lead it as such. We go as he goes."