Mac Jones' Decision To Stay At Alabama Shaped Him As A Player

Photo: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Winning a national championship was on the list of accomplishments former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones wanted to achieve, but that was just the beginning.

Jones will likely be at least the fifth quarterback taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, and he’s easily one of the most talented players in this class. Part of that is because he doesn’t allow that to take over his ego and mindset—a signal-caller who just won the biggest game in all of college football shouldn’t think of himself as someone with any real improvements of note to make, right?

Not Jones. In fact, he’ll tell you specifically what he doesn’t like about his game on the record and make a pledge to getting better.

“In terms of improvement, of course I have things I want to work on mechanically, coming off a long season,” he said. “I’m glad that I came (to the Senior Bowl), but I still have some mechanical flaws.”

One question that has surrounded Jones and other Alabama quarterbacks of the past is if they’re actually as dominant as they seem, or if they’re simply reaping the benefits of one of the country’s most elite supporting casts.

Jones was the best quarterback at the Senior Bowl without question, and seems to believe the experience helped him show that his good fortune at Alabama was more than just what players like wide receiver DeVonta Smith can do.

“If anything, these last few days have proven that I can play with any group of guys and when I’m in that huddle, everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and they’re going to have fun doing it,” he said during the Senior Bowl. “I think I bring the ‘fun’ aspect to the game, but at the same time, it’s all business.”

More than anything, it’s his humbleness, self-awareness, and willingness to work that made him into the elite quarterback he is today. The NCAA transfer portal is a common option for players who were in a position similar to Jones, who sat behind both Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. But he never left the Crimson Tide.

“I learned a lot from both of the quarterbacks I sat behind,” Jones said. “In a couple months here, it’ll be all three of us from that quarterback room in the NFL. I don’t know how many quarterback rooms in the country can say that, but, it’s definitely a pretty cool thing.”

One former Alabama coach sees Jones’ dedication to staying with the program as a possible reason for his strong rise and how he was perceived by his teammates.

“I think that’s a huge part of the way Mac progressed over those three years,” he said. “He stayed and didn’t give up. At the same time, he might have gone somewhere else and decided to transfer and been successful, so I can’t necessarily say that. With the Alabama offense, he was successful because he learned it so well. He spent time working. All the guys around him saw it too, and that’s the reason why he was such a good leader.”

If there’s one thing that’s easy to pick up on about Alabama, it’s the fact the school recruits so well that the next guy at any position is just as good if not better than the one before him.

Jones and Tagovailoa may be two entirely different quarterbacks, but they’re equally successful in their own right. To some, Jones may actually have the upper hand.

Tagovailoa seems to have a decent bit more natural ability than Jones, especially when it comes to mobility, evading pressure, and then expanding a play and overall instinct. But Jones’ intelligence, ability to learn, and trained quickness make him just as good, if not better than Tagovailoa in more aspects.

“They are two entirely different quarterbacks,” the former Alabama coach said. “Tua has a natural, quick release, can get the ball out and also create things. Mac sees things quick and studied it and he gets it out because he makes quick decisions. Both of them were effective. Tua is as accurate as Mac… with a quick release, Mac made quick decisions to get it out of his hand.”

It’s partly because of his mental processing that Jones has drawn comparisons to Tom Brady from people like ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who said he saw some reason to believe Bill Belichick may “see a little Brady in Mac Jones coming out.” 

“Being a processing type guy and making those quick decisions, that’s the similarity and that’s probably what was meant by that,” the source said. “They’re not the fastest guys in the world, not the most athletic, but they’re quick decision-makers and they know their offense.”

Jones sees the comparison as a “huge compliment,” but appreciates it without arrogance.

“I have a long way to go before I can even be in the conversation with him from a playing standpoint,” Jones said. “I do look up to Tom Brady. I’ve always watched his film and use what he does well and apply it to my game, but I do that with a lot of different quarterbacks. Obviously, he’s a complete winner and I want to be a complete winner too.”

There are ways Jones wants to be more like Brady, becoming even quicker than he already is in fixing issues within a play in real time.

“We always say that you’ve got to be able to figure out what the problem is, and Tom Brady, 90 percent of the time, he has an answer for every problem in a play,” he said. “Hopefully I can get to the point where I understand where the problem is and can fix it the way he does—whether that’s throwing hot or adjusting the protection or throwing on the run—whatever I have to do.”

One similarity that Jones and Brady share is that they’re not extremely mobile or athletic. Sure, they can do enough to get out of harm’s way, but you’ll rarely catch them racing defenders down the sideline to reach the end zone.

Some have made comments about how Jones could limit a playbook because he’s more of a pocket passer. In the modern era of the NFL, it’s obvious that mobility, especially the ability for a quarterback to become a playmaker with his legs, is appreciated and brings another aspect to the game.

But at the end of the day, it’s a quarterback’s job to be accurate and make good decisions. The supporting cast is there for a reason, and quarterbacks like Jones who do that better than most deserve just as much if not more recognition than the ones who can run all over the place. The mental aspect is the most important, and Jones clearly has that much down.

Somewhere in the upper 60s is satisfactory, maybe a little more than that, where completion percentage is concerned. But Jones expanded way upon that range, finishing the 2020 season with a completion percentage of 77.4% for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and four interceptions. It’s important to look at the film in addition to the numbers to avoid missing anything when analyzing quarterbacks, but in this particular case, the stat line is reflective of the accuracy, high-level mental processing, and ability to make smart decisions Jones brings to the table.

“If anything, I think I would expand it (a playbook), because of my ability to retain information very well,” he said. “I’m not going to be run around and be hit by big NFL defenders unless I absolutely have to. That’s not in my game. I guess me limiting the playbook would be me sitting in the pocket and just throwing from wherever the launch point is and doing whatever the coaches tell me to do.”

Jones should be off the board by somewhere around the middle to latter parts of the first round, a good pickup for a team like the Patriots or the New Orleans Saints, but he’s already left a respectable, inspiring legacy ahead of April—after a season in which so many players opted out or chose to leave a program because of struggles within unprecedented circumstances.

“I think just taking a chance would be my biggest advice to anybody. A lot of people said I was crazy for coming to Alabama. I gave myself a chance and there were a lot of people around me who gave me a chance. I think it goes to show that you just keep working hard and good things will come.”

Written By:

Crissy Froyd

Feature Writer

Crissy Froyd is a graduating senior at LSU, also serving as the managing editor of the LSU division of USA TODAY SMG. Crissy has specialized primarily in quarterback analysis and features for the better part of her career and covers the Tennessee Titans in addition to the LSU Tigers.

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