Bill Belichick has made a decisive decision and if ever there was a coach who has earned benefit of doubt, it's the winning-addicted curmudgeon whose mechanical calculation turned a desolate franchise into one of the most successful in all of sports. A combination of Mac Jones' play and Cam Newton's inability to be available when needed came to a head this morning as the New England Patriots released the former NFL MVP in favor of giving the starter's job to an unproven rookie.
Jones has been perfectly capable during the preseason and there's growing legend that Belichick's master plan was always sitting back and knowing the Alabama product would be available with the 15th pick in last year's draft. Truthful or otherwise, it's a brilliant opening chapter in what Pats fans are hoping will prove to be a storybook career.
Newton's sole season saw him struggle with injury and lack of offensive weaponry while Tom Brady piloted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a revengeful Super Bowl. One could argue he was always set up to fail and could never be realistically relied on as the long-term answer. Still, it's a shocking turn of events at this late stage of preparations that leaves absolutely no doubt about which basket Belichick feels confident in placing all his eggs.
All Jones needs to do is fill the shoes departed by the greatest quarterback to ever play the sport. For a fanbase so accustomed to winning they collectively struggled to know just what to do with their hands these past 20 months or so. A tall order.
His background as signal-caller at the winningest, most professional college program should serve him well. But there's absolutely nothing that could possibly fully prepare a young player to assume these expectations and pressure. Newton may not have been a safety net but he was certainly some well-fastened training wheels just in case Jones' first foray got a bit wobbly.
The mandate to win and win big resides now solely with Jones. If he proves successful, he'll be immediately beloved. He'll become a folk hero equally loved from Stockbridge to Boston and more than half of New England will see the fog of last season burn away to reveal the familiar mountaintop where Roger Goodell keeps those trophies. If he doesn't, well, don't expect either forgiveness or patience.
Jones is now fully in the fire, taking the reins of a near-impossible situation. A kid replacing a GOAT. Either thrown to the wolves too early or one himself in sheep's clothing.
Belichick has chosen his new adventure and the main character is a blank slate. Time to start writing.