While the New England Patriots are bringing back their starter at the QB slot in the 2018 NFL draft, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones still has a lot of irons in the fire. After all, he played with Alabama’s starter in 2017, Tua Tagovailoa, in the national championship game.
Sports on television are often about narratives, be it the ALCS between the Astros and the Yankees, the Celtics and the Warriors, or the Packers and the Lions. Narratives are created by the decision makers, the coaches, the team executives, the players, and the fans.
Before the 2017 NFL Draft, the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham wrote a story about Alabama QBs. In it, he argued that the Crimson Tide have been scouting the same five QBs every year for 10 years. In fact, four of those five QBs were taken in the first four rounds of the last four NFL drafts. He then pointed out a new buzz word that was used by scouts and analysts: “maturation”. The word was used to describe why Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Blake Sims, and Phillip Sims have not improved much at all, and yet turned into first round picks.
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS — Mac Jones defeated Cam Newton for the starting quarterback position with the New England Patriots. In doing so, he has the opportunity to alter the myth that Alabama quarterbacks haven’t measured up in the NFL since the days of Bart Starr, Joe Namath, and Ken Stabler, who had a combined four Super Bowl victories.
“Two years ago, Alabama hadn’t had much success at quarterback since the merger and early portions of the NFL, and now you have three former Alabama starters [who might have an impact] this year,” said Greg McElroy, a former Alabama quarterback and current ESPN college football commentator.
“It’s a reasonable question to pose. Why is it that Alabama has had so many great athletes, yet the quarterback position has just recently been regarded a first- or second-round draftable position? ‘Don’t touch those people,’ it used to be said.”
In addition to the Patriots’ Jones and the Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, McElroy has included Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles, who transferred to Oklahoma from Alabama for his final college season in 2019. Jones and Tagovailoa will face off in Week 1 against New England, with Jones and Tagovailoa facing battle on Sept. 12. (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).
Alabama coach Nick Saban said this week of the three, “They all worked hard and made great progress while they were here.” “It’s a reflection of some of the very outstanding quarterback coaches and offensive coordinators that we’ve had here.”
After the heyday of Starr, Namath, and Stabler, two of whom played under renowned coach Bear Bryant, Richard Todd, a first-round draft choice of the Jets in 1976, leads the list of Alabama quarterbacks in the NFL. During the 1982 season, he was the last Alabama quarterback to win a postseason game, and he came within one victory of guiding the Jets to the Super Bowl, but he was stopped on a muddy field at Miami’s Orange Bowl.
Since Todd’s retirement following the 1985 season, Alabama quarterbacks have combined for 35 touchdown passes in 35 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Those TDs were tossed by Tagovailoa (11), Jeff Rutledge (nine), Brodie Croyle (eight), AJ McCarron (six) and McElroy (one).
The history of Alabama quarterbacks in the NFL since Todd is readily explained, according to Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN’s senior NFL draft analyst. There haven’t been many highly ranked candidates for the job at the institution.
“They won there, and they were excellent college quarterbacks,” Kiper said, “but they weren’t expected to start in the NFL.” “That is something we must always distinguish. Everyone says that if you don’t make it in the NFL, you weren’t very good in college. College is not the same as the NFL. It’s up to you to separate them.”
Mac Jones, according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, has demonstrated “an ability to execute things the way we want them done.” Mitchell Leff/Getty Images photo
The Alabama pipeline has been tapped often in recent years in New England, where the Patriots think they have discovered their replacement to Tom Brady in Jones. Coaches Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have a strong relationship, which contributes to this. But it’s the first time it’s occurred at quarterback for the Patriots.
In his college coaching career at Michigan State, LSU and Alabama, Saban has had 10 quarterbacks play in the NFL. They have posted a 54-75 record, with 141 touchdowns and 121 interceptions, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Jones thinks his time with the Crimson Tide prepared him for the chance, and he believes his experience with the Crimson Tide prepared him for it.
“In the NFL, Alabama has had some very excellent guys,” Jones remarked. “It’s incredible to have attended school there and studied from the same quarterback room that I did. Moving ahead with the same experience will likely bring up some of the same issues that occurred before, and you can always learn from the person in front of you — or behind you.”
Those who are close to him, in particular, are rooting for him to succeed.
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“I’m a fan,” said Croyle, who was a third-round draft selection of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006 after playing at Alabama from 2002 to 2005. “There’s a confidence in the way he conducts himself, but it’s a relatable confidence. It’s clear that his teammates love playing for him as much as with him.”
That has been apparent with the Patriots, who have shown Jones, 22, a degree of respect seldom seen with rookies in Belichick’s 21-year coaching career.
“He’s a fantastic young man. Dude, you’re a genius. He’s going to throw himself over the cliff, “Dont’a Hightower, a linebacker with the New England Patriots, played for Alabama from 2008 to 2011. “I found out he’s been studying some of the defensive plays to have a better understanding of how we operate. I give him credit for that because not many young men would view it as a chance, and he took advantage of it on his own.”
Jones has been “a joy to work with,” according to longtime Patriots captain Matthew Slater.
“When it comes to what we do off the football field, the way we approach our job, character really matters, and I believe Mac is a great young man,” Slater said. “His family should be proud of the way he was raised and the manner in which he conducts himself.”
‘A perfect scenario’
When it comes to Jones’ legacy as an Alabama quarterback in the NFL, McElroy is “very positive” about the future.
After the Patriots dismissed Cam Newton, Field Yates and Stephania Bell analyze Mac Jones’ fantasy prospects.
“Because the circumstance you enter into accounts for 75% of your ability to become a great player. At the very least, I’m sure of it “McElroy explained.
“If you’re a first-round selection, it’s because you have a very strong skill set. So, how do you get to the finish line of being a franchise quarterback who is super-complete? By putting oneself in the company of a lot of very excellent players, hopefully. Having a playcaller who is both intelligent and creative. Having a program or organization that is a model of consistency, with a well-defined structure of how things operate and how you do things. I believe Mac is in an excellent position as a result of all of these factors.”
Jones has admitted as much. When speculations of his going No. 3 overall to the San Francisco 49ers didn’t pan out and he got chosen at No. 15, he stated during a press conference soon after being picked by the Patriots that he had secretly hoped for New England to be his final destination.
McElroy, on the other hand, speculates on how things could have gone differently for Croyle — and the mythology surrounding Alabama quarterbacks — if he had entered the NFL as a third-round selection in 2006.
Croyle, an Alabama native who played for three different head coaches with the Crimson Tide before being hired by Saban in 2007, felt playing for the Chiefs would be perfect. But he has no regrets when he looks back.
“I was definitely looking forward to playing with what some considered to be the greatest offensive line in NFL history. When I arrive, it’s as if they all dispersed before I could even take a picture “Croyle laughed as he stated this.
“But [coach] Herm Edwards is still one of the most influential people in my life. I honestly do not think I would exchange the companionship and knowledge that guy showed on a daily basis for any other chance…. What’s more, you know what? I’m not a fan of the “what if” scenario. The ‘what occurred’ game is one of my favorites. I am thankful for my job. Is it turning out the way I had hoped? No way, dude. I wish I was still in the game. But… would it have brought me back to what I get to do today, which has always been my real calling? It’s unlikely that it would have, therefore I thank God for the time and the appointments.”
Croyle, 38, is the executive director of Big Oak Ranch, a Christian orphanage and abused children’s home in Alabama established by his father, John.
Early in his tenure at Alabama, Jones (10) was overshadowed by quarterbacks Jalen Hurts (2) and Tua Tagovailoa, but he earned his way into the starting lineup. via AP/Vasha Hunt/Alabama Media Group
Croyle views Jones as an outstanding guy — a top-notch decision-maker on and off the field — who can represent the Alabama quarterback fraternity in the NFL. While some questioned Jones’ performance at Alabama since he was surrounded by future first-round selections DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Najee Harris, Croyle had a different perspective on the Heisman Trophy candidate.
“I’m impressed by his tenacity. He’s an Alabama native, so his name isn’t one you hear all the time. You hear all the blue-chip people, all the big-name folks, and he just quietly went about his business and improved. Then, when his chance arose, he took advantage of it “Croyle remarked.
“‘You know what, you don’t have to be the crowned or anointed to make it where you want to go,’ there’s so much for our young people now who are rising up to say. It’s sometimes enough to simply put your head down and decide to put one foot in front of the other.”
Jones impressed Belichick and many in the locker room in only five months. They point to his even-keeled demeanor and, of course, his on-field accomplishments.
“I think he’s shown an ability to execute things the way we want them done, on a productive level,” Belichick said. “I’m sure he’ll continue to learn and develop as he gets older, and we’ll see where it leads. But that’s why we selected him in the first place, and he’s delivered on that promise.”
Some of his Patriots colleagues are thinking big after what has transpired throughout spring workouts and training camp. Newton’s absence from the squad for five days and three sessions owing to a COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding” marked a turning point.
Jones took advantage of the situation, his teammates rallied around him, and it gave Belichick and his staff a vivid picture of what life might be like without Newton.
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“I believe he has the potential to be something spectacular,” Patriots offensive lineman Trent Brown said. “For a young player, I believe he can make certain throws that not many young people can.”
Jones, on the other hand, does not move as well as some of his quarterback contemporaries, which McElroy believes will be a challenge for him to overcome.
“Mac Jones is not that person. The position has grown more competent of producing on their own. He’ll be a more conventional pocket-passing quarterback who’ll depend on accuracy and mental dexterity to rip you apart “McElroy said.
“The best part is that it isn’t a dinosaur. The players that have no movement — the guys who are 6-foot-5, statues in the pocket, with absolute cannon arms that can’t absorb information fast — are dinosaurs. Those are the kind of people that are becoming extinct. However, if you can process quickly, accurately, move about in the pocket, and predict where receivers will be, then having less-than-ideal mobility isn’t the end of the world.”
McElroy wonders whether Alabama quarterbacks under Saban and before him have been held to an unjust standard.
“They have a reputation for being a bit of a jerk. In other words, if they don’t go on to become an All-Pro, they weren’t worth their salt “McElroy said. “I feel like there have been so many great players that if you’re a forgotten journeyman backup who’s vested and has had a decent career, you’re basically a scrub in some people’s views. But it’s all due of your colleagues’ abilities and, certainly, the success that some of them achieve.”
Jones is expected to be the franchise quarterback the Patriots have been looking for since Brady’s free-agent exit in March 2020.
Those who came before Jones at Alabama, where the QB history following Starr, Namath, and Stabler is well-documented, are hoping for the same outcome.
“Because you shared the same blood, sweat, and sacrifice in the same location, there is a bond. You have a fraternity that you carry with you “Croyle said.
The 2017 NFL Draft has been full of Alabama quarterbacks. In fact, last year’s draft had four Alabama quarterbacks taken in the first round, and that’s one more than any other single school. In fact, of the 14 quarterbacks selected in the first round during the past five years, six of them went to Alabama . This year’s draft also has a good chance of featuring another Alabama quarterback — and another Alabama quarterback in the top half of the first round. Ten of the 14 quarterbacks in the draft come from the SEC, and this year’s draft has a record number of SEC players and prospects in the first round. First and second round picks from the SEC were tied for the most in the NFL last season with 10, and there’s a good. Read more about patriots qb depth chart and let us know what you think.
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