In the 2024 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots are poised to select their future franchise quarterback with the third overall pick. This decision echoes their 2021 draft strategy when they chose Mac Jones from Alabama at the 15th spot.
Yet, a recent revelation by The Athletic's Jeff Howe suggests that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had different plans in mind three years ago. While appreciative of Jones's talent, Belichick had his sights set on another prospect, quarterback Davis Mills.
Despite his personal preference, the Patriots' dire need for a quarterback following a disappointing 7-9 season under Cam Newton - their first without Tom Brady - led to the selection of Jones, who was the top-rated player on their board.
Belichick, known for his decisive leadership, surprisingly showed a willingness to incorporate his staff's input, a change spurred by the team's lackluster performance post-Brady.
In the final game of the regular season, #Patriots QB Mac Jones is a healthy scratch and will serve as the third (emergency) QB.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 7, 2024
Belichick's Collaborative Shift
Howe's report sheds light on Belichick's commitment to a more collaborative approach in personnel decisions. Even as the final decision rested with him, Belichick sought unanimous support from his staff before finalizing Jones as their pick.
This gesture marked a significant shift in his management style, aiming to foster a more inclusive environment within the Patriots' decision-making process. Jones' journey with the Patriots has been a rollercoaster. He started only 11 of 17 games in the recent season, with benchings marking his inconsistent performance.
Interestingly, his two wins as a starter came in games where he managed to avoid throwing interceptions. Over his tenure, Jones has posted a record of 18-24, averaging 212.3 passing yards per game with a tally of 46 touchdowns, 36 interceptions, and an 85.8 passer rating.
On the other hand, despite not having the most illustrious career with the Houston Texans, Davis Mills presents a curious case of 'what if.' His record stands at 5-19-1 over two seasons before being replaced by C.J. Stroud.
Mills' stats, though modest compared to Jones, include an average of 175.1 passing yards per game, 35 touchdowns, 25 interceptions, and an 83 passer rating. The question lingers: would the careers of Jones and Mills have unfolded differently had they been drafted by other teams? While Jones enjoyed a more talented roster in New England, Mills' circumstances in Houston were less favorable.
This contrast raises intriguing possibilities about their respective paths in the NFL, a league where talent and opportunity often intertwine unpredictably.