During Tom Brady’s first season as an NFL starter, the Patriots were able to win the Super Bowl. Will they be able to repeat that feat with Mac Jones?
That won’t be easy. No rookie starting quarterback has ever won the Super Bowl, and the No. 6-seeded Patriots face a daunting path to the big game. It starts in Buffalo against the No. 3-seeded Bills, against whom Jones has struggled in two starts, so Buffalo has the edge in the game.
But do the Patriots really need Jones to carry the load? Or do they just need me to be useful here? Eventually, they’ll need to get a strong game from him or a decisive drive to win a championship, but as we saw in the Bills-Patriots game in Week 13, where Jones threw three passes, the Patriots can win with their quick attack. and his solid defense.
That will sound familiar to Patriots fans. That’s how Brady won his first championship, and maybe even championships, with New England. That will give Jones a plan to follow as he looks to lead the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.
Here’s a look at Brady’s first playoff run and how Jones’ numbers compare to those Brady posted during his rookie season.
Tom Brady’s first playoff run with the Patriots
Brady won all three of his playoff starts during his first year as a starter. That included the team’s upset 20-17 win over the Rams in Super Bowl 36, during which Brady led the team to a game-winning field goal despite the late great John Madden proclaiming he would play overtime.
That drive, along with the famous “crease rule” call, is Brady’s lasting memory of that postseason run. His main responsibility during that postseason was avoiding mistakes, which he largely managed to do, save for one interception.
Here’s a look at Brady’s stats from that postseason:
|statistics||Tom Brady (2001 postseason)|
|yards per game||190.7|
|total annotations||2 (1 pass, 1 run)|
Incredibly, Brady recorded 52 of his 97 total pass attempts in Game 1 against the Raiders. He also had more passing yards in that contest (315) than the other two contests combined (260). That means he averaged just 130 passing yards per game in the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl.
The NFL was a little less happy with the passes in 2001, but it’s still an abnormally low number for a quarterback. Belichick simply opted to lean on defense and the running game to help lead the inexperienced Brady to a title.
Belichick will probably try to replicate that again in 2021 with Jones. Will Jones be able to do it? His 2021 numbers suggest he should have a chance to do so.
How Mac Jones’ 2021 stats compare to Tom Brady’s 2001 stats
All told, Jones’ rookie year numbers are close to what Brady produced in his first year as a starter. Jones made 17 starts, while Brady played in 15 games and started 14 after Drew Bledsoe suffered a lung injury while playing against the Jets.
To compare the two as accurately as possible, we added the numbers from Brady’s three postseason starts to those he posted during the regular season. That gave us a sample size of 17 starts to compare him to Jones. We might as well have extrapolated their numbers from an initial 14-game roster to 17 players, but adding actual game results seemed like the better record.
Here’s how the two compare after one season.
|statistics||Jones Totals||Brady Totals|
|yards per attempt||7.3||6.7|
Jones is a bit more efficient, as evidenced by his advantage in completion percentage and yards per attempt, but he also has an advantage in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Again, that’s partly due to the higher passing volume at the NFL level, but it speaks to the fact that Jones is running the game effectively, just like Brady did when he was a first-year starter.
We’re not comparing Brady to Jones outright. It wouldn’t be fair to say that any rookie, no matter how good, will face the greatest quarterback of all time in the long run. Still, we can say his rookie-year numbers compare favorably to what Brady produced during his first Super Bowl appearance. So if Belichick can get his defense and running game to a high level this month, Jones should theoretically give the Patriots a chance to win.
That theory will be put to the test on Wild Card weekend when the Patriots travel to Buffalo to face the Bills.
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