With Cam Newton getting released Tuesday, quarterback Mac Jones will be in charge of the huddle when the New England Patriots open the season on Sept. 12 against Miami. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Bill Belichick has always been a master of misdirection. In retrospect, it was silly to think he had missed the call on the quarterback.

The Patriots’ six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach couldn’t miss what was right there, in plain sight, taking snaps under center.

Sure, he let Cam Newton have all the starter reps through training camp and the preseason, but Mac Jones played more. And the more Belichick saw of the rookie, the more he knew what the end game had to be.

Jones is QB1.

And just so there is no confusion in the ranks, Newton was given his walking papers. Jones is the man. Period.

While Newton has been a very good soldier to Belichick, and a terrific locker room presence, this is what’s best for the Patriots, and that’s the bottom line.

Yes, it’s late in the game, but Newton still has a chance to move on, and possibly land another gig, although being unvaccinated could wind up a job-killer going forward.

It didn’t help him here.

But that’s not the story. That’s not the lead.

Jones’ emergence and readiness to assume the mantle outweighs all.

A fan holds up a sign welcoming Patriots quarterback Mac Jones during the second half of a preseason game on Aug. 12 in Foxborough, Mass. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Because, in Foxborough, the next generation has arrived. The Mac Jones era has officially begun. It’s been obvious to reporters covering training camp this day would come sooner rather than later. Jones is that special. It’s also been obvious that he is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense, the one that’s been so successful for two decades with Tom Brady at the helm.

Why?

In terms of style and substance, he is very much like a younger version of Brady. The decision-making, the quick reads, the quick release and accuracy, the command of the offense, Jones displayed all of those attributes. It was unmistakable. The coaching staff and players couldn’t miss it.

Having Jones at the helm is the present and future for the Patriots. As a first-round pick, coming from Alabama where he was coached by Nick Saban, he has the pedigree to succeed. And putting him in an offense that has a great offensive line, a powerful running game, and two star tight ends, a top 10 defense even without Stephon Gilmore the first half of the season, there’s reason to hope.

There’s reason to believe the Patriots will turn last year’s 7-9 season around, and once again be contenders.

Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis agreed. He’s been a big fan of Jones throughout the process, and told his listeners on SiriusXM NFL Radio that the rookie will work just fine in the Patriots offense.

“What is this team built for right now? To run the ball, to use the tight ends and running backs, and to play good defense,” said Weis. “I mean, they’re set up for this kid. That’s exactly how this team is formulated. Not that that was the intent, but that’s who they are right now.”

Jones certainly had his share of ups and downs during training camp and the preseason, but he was always able to bounce back, and correct mistakes. It’ll be like that, too, during the season, but holding him back would have been a bigger mistake.

Having Newton as a backup also wouldn’t have been fair to either quarterback. The Patriots recognized that.

Newton’s vaccination status also had to play a role. There was no guarantee of availability, as we saw with his five-day penalty for violating COVID-19 protocols. The next time, it might have been 10 days. That’s just not the recipe for a starting quarterback.

While Newton looked better throwing the football, he still wasn’t a match for Jones, who is a much better passer. Newton has more mobility than Jones, and the ability to do more with run-pass options, but in the end, it made no sense to have Jones hold a clipboard.

Jones makes the Patriots offense click, in the same way it did for No. 12. It’s about seeing what the defense is giving you, then bam, decision made, ball out, and usually in the right place. Between the tempo and rhythm, how well he handled the two-minute offense, it was almost a no-brainer.

The Patriots now have a shiny new toy running the show. After Sunday’s game, Jones said he’d be “ready for whenever my time comes.”

The time is now.


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