Yes, Mac Jones might be the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots now that he’s beaten out Cam Newton for the job.
But don’t think that the 49ers made a mistake in taking Trey Lance No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
While it’s true that Lance isn’t going to start for the 49ers in Week 1 of the regular season — if, for no other reason than he has a chipped bone in his finger that will keep him sidelined for at least the next week — to compare Jones and Lance is to compare apples and oranges.
Which is better? Depends on the recipe.
And I think both teams are following their recipe to a T.
For those 49ers fans panicking at Jones’ ascension to Pats starter, remember: Jones came into the league as the easy, plug-and-play quarterback prospect. He’s a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of player.
Truth be told, I liked Jones — a lot — coming out of Alabama. In the months preceding the draft, I felt alone on an island thinking he was a first-round pick. His field vision, timing, and intermediate accuracy are excellent and that can make up for the fact that he can’t run a lick and that his deep ball leaves much to be desired.
In short, Jones is in all likelihood just another version of Jimmy Garoppolo. Good, but not great.
And while you can win a lot of games in the NFL with good, solid quarterback play, I don’t believe you can win a championship with such a player at the helm of your offense unless you have a massive talent advantage everywhere else on the field. (An advantage that I don’t think exists in the modern game.)
Why would the Niners double down on that kind of player?
Lance is the opposite of a Jones or Garoppolo. He’s a high-ceiling, lower-floor prospect.
It should be noted, though, with the way the game is now being played, that floor is mighty high to start.
Regardless, he’s young and inexperienced. We’ve seen that inexperience manifest on the field in preseason games: Lance’s near-perfect mechanics on the practice field have sputtered against a real pass rush in front of a real crowd. The speed of the game is just a bit too fast for him right now, but his improvement in that regard has been clear, too.
Under different circumstances, the 49ers would start Lance in Week 1. They’d throw him into the fire to pick up the experience he’ll ultimately need to be successful.
But the Niners aren’t willing to risk that at the moment. They’re not a rebuilding team — they’re a contender. There’s too much on the line for them this season.
And while I can disagree with the assessment of not playing Lance full-bore from the start, that’s just one man’s opinion. The 49ers’ official opinion is that playing Garoppolo and Lance gives them the best chance to win and provides a solid development opportunity for their young quarterback.
No, Lance isn’t a starter, but here’s another way to view it: He’s taken away playing time from a quarterback who in his last full season took this team to the Super Bowl.
I think Newton is one of the most talented players to ever be a quarterback in the NFL, but let’s be honest about what he is at the moment — his shoulder is crab meat, his legs are shot, and he will never be a top-choice quarterback in this league again. Remember, New England picked Newton up late last offseason — he wasn’t wanted then, and I imagine he’ll go a long time as a free agent before he’s picked up now.
Jones only needed a small window of opportunity to win the job. And, again, I’m glad he did. I like watching him play quarterback and I think the NFL is a better entertainment product when the Patriots are competent.
It will no doubt be fun to watch and compare this rookie class of quarterbacks this season, but one year does not make a career. There are different skill sets, different levels of readiness, and different team circumstances. Lance has a viable incumbent quarterback. Justin Fields has incompetent coaching in Chicago. Trevor Lawrence has one of the league’s worst rosters around him. Zach Wilson plays for the Jets.
It’s apples and oranges and bananas and kiwis and plums.
In truth, it will take at least a year and a half to figure out who can and cannot play in the league.
So for anyone to make a judgment on either quarterback as a “mistake” or a “home run” in August — before there has been a single meaningful snap — is ridiculous.
Contributed by local news sources