Return of the Mac? New Patriots OC Doesn’t Rule Out Mac Jones at QB

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt didn't rule out the possibility of Mac Jones returning as the starting QB next season.

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots need a new quarterback. We know it, you know it, they know it. However, that doesn’t mean the offseason will break their way.

Depending on how things go in free agency or the 2024 NFL Draft, all roads could lead back to embattled QB Mac Jones, who was horrible in 2023. But how does the Patriots’ new offensive coordinator feel about the situation?

Alex Van Pelt Leaves Door Open for Mac Jones Return

Alex Van Pelt, one of first-year head coach Jerod Mayo’s many recent hires, met with Patriots reporters on Wednesday as part of a standard-setting afternoon at Gillette Stadium. He began his introductory news conference by insisting all players returning from last season’s wretched Patriots offense have a clean slate.

“I think the best thing for everybody is it’s going to be a fresh start for everybody,” Van Pelt said. “I’ve talked to a couple guys already. Coming in with a clean slate and no preconceived expectations or notions of who these guys are, and then we’ll build it from the ground up.”

One of the players with whom Van Pelt already has met: Jones, who reportedly could be traded this offseason despite his clear desire to return as the starter.

Van Pelt was asked whether he could envision Jones being New England’s top quarterback in 2024. The veteran OC mostly gave a roundabout non-answer, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of Jones keeping his job.

“Really, right now, everything is on the table,” Van Pelt said. “As we go through this process, these last couple weeks, 10 days, have just been diving into who are. Trying to evaluate our guys. We’re trying to understand who we have here as well as looking at other players out there.

“But right now, everything is on the table, and we’re just still working through that process. When that time comes [to pick a quarterback], I’m sure it’ll be a collaborative effort, and we’ll make the right decisions.”

Van Pelt also was asked to describe his ideal QB.

“Smart, tough, and a leader,” he said. “You put them in those categories. Obviously, there’s accuracy in the pass game, mobility, decision-making — there’s a lot that goes into it. But at the end of the day, that role is such an important one not just for the offense but the entire team. A guy who’s a true leader who can come in and understands his teammates and gets the best out of those guys.

“The physical attributes are obviously important, but if a guy is a great leader, and can come in and make good decisions, and throw the ball accurately, those are all plusses. The guys that I’ve been around who are great players are often the best leaders and the most competitive guys as well.”

That could’ve been a way to describe Jones after his rookie season, when he displayed franchise-quarterback traits while leading the Patriots to the playoffs. But the following two campaigns saw the 2021 first-round pick’s performance and composure plummet, with his support in the locker room following suit.

Mac Jones Faces Uncertain Future After Lost Season

Jones once looked like a worthy Tom Brady heir in Foxboro. And he rightly was given an opportunity to reestablish himself in 2023 after being undermined by coaching dysfunction in 2022.

But last season was a complete disaster. Jones was benched for Bailey Zappe multiple times and didn’t see a single snap over the final six weeks. He was a healthy scratch for New England’s season-ending loss to the New York Jets.

Once a cerebral, mistake-averse QB, Jones turned into a turnover-prone mess. The Alabama product threw 12 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. He also lost three fumbles, one of which was returned for a score.

KEEP READING: How Patriots, Jerod Mayo Set New Standard While Introducing Coaching Staff

Jones doesn’t deserve all of the blame. He played behind a patchwork offensive line and with a slow, sloppy group of receivers. The 25-year-old wasn’t put into a position to succeed.

Nevertheless, his play deteriorated to a point of no justification. Van Pelt might not admit it publicly, but he can’t love the idea of the Patriots running it back with a broken quarterback.

Miss football? The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here, boss. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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