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Tara Sullivan

Mac Jones is not the only problem, but he’s not the answer at quarterback for the inept Patriots

Mac Jones had his head down as Bill Belichick watched a blowout loss for the second consecutive week.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

What’s the point now, coach?

Another brutal Sunday, another benching, another embarrassing blowout for Bill Belichick and the Patriots — this time by a stunning 34-0 count to the scare-nobody Saints — and it’s painfully obvious Mac Jones is not the answer at quarterback. Just one week after saying “there was no point” in leaving Jones in to finish a blowout loss to the Cowboys, Belichick pulled Jones again in the lopsided loss to the Saints.

With another early pick-6, with another handoff to backup Bailey Zappe, the end of the game came early — again — for Jones.


Sure feels like the end of his run as the Patriots’ starter is here too.

This entire Patriots offense is a mess, unable to score, shut out at home, largely invisible in back-to-back losses that are the worst by point margin in Belichick’s tenure. The Patriots head into a Week 6 game in Las Vegas at 1-4, having allowed 69 unanswered points, on a streak of 10 straight quarters without a touchdown, a 30-drive drought that is the longest of Belichick’s life.

Blame the roster, blame the coaching, blame the conditions, blame the opponents.

But blame Jones too.

He looks broken. It’s not just the physical shortcomings that continue to plague his anemic efforts — the absence of speed, the suspect arm strength, the lack of pocket awareness — Jones’s confidence seems gone now too.

“It’s hard right?” Jones acknowledged, “but confidence comes from years of experience and practice, from things you’ve accomplished, but also trying to get better and learn from everything. We definitely need to get better as an offense. We have to take on the challenge.”

Mac Jones continues to look forward in his postgame comments, but it's hard to feel inspired with the state of the Patriots offense.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

But will he keep getting the chance to answer the call?

When the most positive thing that can be said about the security of your roster spot is that no one else behind you is any better — Zappe sure doesn’t look like the answer either, and remember, he was cut by Belichick at the end of training camp and brought back before the season began — there’s nothing off the table anymore.


If Jones never starts another game for New England, I wouldn’t be surprised. If he’s back to start next week, I wouldn’t be surprised either. But back here next season or for a potential fifth year of his rookie deal? No thanks.

A befuddled Belichick doesn’t have many answers, and his postgame press conferences continue to repeat monosyllabic variations of the same “we have to do everything better” blather. If you’d rather drop the hammer on him over Jones, you’ll get no argument here. The stats do enough to damn the poor job he’s doing coaching this team, but the roster indicts him just as much. Built by his own hands as he is the Patriots’ general manager, deficient in so many crucial areas by his own front office decisions, the lack of a functioning offensive line alone should shift blame from Jones to his coach.

No wonder Belichick wouldn’t officially pull the plug on Jones Sunday. It would be tantamount to admitting he was wrong.

Will Jones be his QB again next week? “Yeah,” Belichick grumbled. “There’s a lot of problems. It certainly wasn’t all him.”

For the second straight week, Belichick blamed the game’s circumstances over Jones’s performance for the benching, muttering “31-0″ when asked for his thinking behind pulling him. But this is a coach who used to insist there was never a score lopsided enough to justify pulling the best players, a reality Tom Brady could attest to better than anyone. Way up or way down late in the fourth quarter, Brady was out there slinging away, Belichick always citing an “anything is possible” mantra to justify any injury risk.


Bill Belichick has continued to stand by Mac Jones, even after benching him twice late in the Patriots' last two losses.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Once upon a time, Belichick was known for making Brady the greatest QB draft pick of all time, finding him with the 199th pick of the 2000 draft. Now, the thrower he finally deemed worthy enough of his first-ever first-round selection at the position just can’t deliver the goods. Instead, that 15th overall pick of the 2021 draft keeps going backward, worse than he did last year under the coaching malpractice of Belichick buddies Joe Judge and Matt Patricia, worse each week this season despite the arrival of another friend of Belichick’s, Bill O’Brien, whose hoped-for magic touch has yet to materialize.

There was Jones again, jumpy and off target from the outset. Gifted an 8-yard run on first down by Rhamondre Stevenson to open the first drive, two straight overthrows on second and short left Jones running to the sideline while the punting unit came on, a dismal three and out that would only get worse from there.

There he was again on the very next possession, under pressure on third and 6, trying to move up in a pocket that was collapsing around him, foolishly looking to make something out of nothing. Hit as he released the ball, his last-ditch pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage, wobbling straight into the hands of Tyrann Mathieu, who returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.


And just like that, just as they had in each of their previous three losses, the Patriots were playing from behind. Much of it is on Jones. That’s three pick-6s on the season, the second in two weeks, with another scoop-and-score fumble making him responsible for four defensive touchdowns in five games.


Even Jones’s personal highlight — running out on the field — took a hit, with fans changing their signs in the far corner of the Gillette Stadium end zone. What used to be “Mac attack corner” was renamed “Zeke’s corner diner” and “Let Zeke cook,” a change in allegiance from the high-priced QB to a last-second veteran addition to the roster, running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Going 12 for 22 for 110 yards with two interceptions and a fumble against the Saints sure isn’t going to win back the fans. Putting that on top of the 12-for-21, 150-yard, two-interception, one-lost-fumble disaster against the Cowboys and it’s quite possible Jones will never win back his job again.

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Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at Follow her @Globe_Tara.