Why Mac Jones’ relationship with Bob Kraft could be a problem for Bill Belichick

Robert Kraft already made it clear in March that he wants the Patriots to make the postseason and win a playoff game for the first time in five years. He also paid Jerod Mayo handsomely to keep him off the coaching market and likely sees him as the team’s coach-in-waiting. And Belichick’s friends have said privately that they’re worried about him being on the hot seat in 2023.

On top of it all, Belichick must dance carefully around his young quarterback. Obviously, Jones is pretty close to the Krafts — maybe closer than Belichick is.

First the picture. It is uncaptioned, and therefore unclear as to when and where it took place. But it seems likely that it was taken at Kraft’s party in the Hamptons last weekend.

No, not the mega party thrown by Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin on July 3 that Kraft and Brady attended — but Kraft’s own party on July 2, as reported by the New York Post.

Dave Matthews played the shindig, and Brady and McCourty were among the attendees, according to the Post. And neither Brady nor Jones wore white, which was the dress code at Rubin’s party.

I asked McCourty on Monday if the photo was taken at Kraft’s party and he replied, “Details are not important lol.”

So let’s take that as a “yes”.

Two of the invitees are understandable. Brady won six Super Bowls for the Krafts and increased the value of his team by billions. McCourty was a 12-year captain who won three Super Bowls. They get a seat at the Kraft table for life.

But Jones? Already getting the invite to the Hamptons after two mediocre seasons with the Patriots?


It is therefore the question of “How does Mac Jones look inside the Patriots?” is difficult to answer. It depends on who you ask – the coach or the owners.

The coach, Belichick, appears to have lukewarm feelings for Jones. It began in 2021, when Belichick drafted Jones No. 15, only after Jones fell in his lap. It felt like a gesture from Belichick to the Krafts, who needed a young, franchise quarterback to make everyone forget the embarrassment of 2020 when Brady won the Super Bowl in Tampa while Belichick and Cam Newton led a boring Patriots team to a 7-9 record.

Bill Belichick pinned his hopes for the future on Mac Jones when he selected Jones in the first round in 2021.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Belichick-Jones relationship got off to a solid start in 2021, but went sideways in 2022 as the Patriots struggled to 8-9 and Jones’ stats dipped across the board. Jones didn’t seem to appreciate being led by inexperienced offensive coaches (Matt Patricia and Joe Judge), and Belichick didn’t seem to appreciate Jones’ emotional outbursts, or Jones reportedly went behind Belichick’s back to get advice on how to fix the offence.

That’s why this spring Jones talked about a “fresh start” and “earn[ing] the respect of everyone in this building again.” That’s why Belichick wouldn’t even say Jones’ name during several media availability this spring, and when he finally did, it was only to praise Jones as a hard worker, ” like every player that’s here every day.” No word on how great Jones is at quarterback or how ready he is to go in his third season.

Belichick’s lukewarm response was understandable. In two years, Jones hasn’t proven much. He has just one comeback win in 31 starts. He is 4-8 in December and January with no playoff wins. He finished 26th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks last year in passer rating (84.8). And he met his coaches on several occasions. If Jones doesn’t resume his play in 2023, Belichick may be ready to look for another quarterback of the future.

But it might not be Belichick’s decision either. He may not love Jones, but the owners seem to.

I had a brief interaction with Jonathan Kraft this spring and it was clear that he passionately defends and protects Jones. Now Jones apparently gets the invitation to the Hamptons to party with both Robert and Jonathan. Jones appeared to be one of the few, if not only, current Patriots to receive an invitation.

Why would the Krafts already make Jones their guy even though he had accomplished so little? One answer could be that the Krafts want Jones to succeed to help their own legacy.

For all the talk about how winning another Super Bowl could fill the last hole on Belichick’s resume — to quell the “He only won with Brady” naysayers — the same dynamic is at play for Patriots owners.

They had mud on their faces when Brady skipped town, and they had no legacy at quarterback. If Jones can lead the Patriots back to prominence, the Krafts will once again look like geniuses — men who have the secret sauce for selecting quarterbacks and building stable, winning franchises. But if Jones flops, we can add the Krafts to the list of those who were buoyed by Brady’s unexpected greatness.

So they’re invested in Jones succeeding. Belichick, meanwhile, barely wants to say Jones’ name in public.

Which means things could get interesting if Jones and Belichick don’t click better in 2023.

Belichick may need to play well with Jones this year if he wants to stick around in 2024 to coach his 50th NFL season and break Don Shula’s record for coaching wins.

One person seems to really have the backing of ownership, and it’s not the head coach.

Ben Volin can be contacted at [email protected].

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