By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Let the competition begin.READ MORE: Patriots Sign Undrafted Kicker Quinn Nordin
The Patriots may have spent a first-round pick on Mac Jones at No. 15 on Thursday night. It may have been the highest pick Bill Belichick has ever used on a quarterback. It may seem like a sure thing that Jones was selected to be the Patriots’ starting quarterback.
But like any position on the Patriots roster, the starting quarterback spot has to be earned. And right now, the only person who’s earned that job is named Cameron Newton.
“I think he’ll be able to process the offense,” Belichick said of Jones. “It’s obviously gonna take a lot of time, we’ll see how it goes. Cam’s our quarterback. Whatever time Jarrett [Stidham] or Mac are ready to challenge and compete, we’ll see how that goes. Right now, Mac, he’s just got a lot of learning in front of him.”
That news is … sure to raise some eyebrows in New England.
The Patriots obviously felt obligated to select a quarterback, after Year 1 of the post-Tom Brady era resulted in the team’s worst record since 2000. Newton was a highly effective rusher last year (592 yards, 12 touchdowns, on 137 attempts) but struggled as a passer. He completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards with just eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Surely, a team doesn’t draft a quarterback in the top half of the first round without expecting him to be the starter eventually. Sooner than later, even. Oftentimes by Week 1.
Yet for now, the top of the quarterback depth chart reads “NEWTON.”
And for what it’s worth, Jones said all the right things about his straightforward expectations for joining the team.READ MORE: CBS Sports Ranks Patriots As Having Best Draft In Entire NFL
“Both those guys are role models to me right now and I’m just going to go behind them and learn how they did it,” Jones said of Newton and Jarrett Stidham. “Just play my role and listen to them and take advice and help them however I can, whether it’s taking notes or whatever I need to do to help the team win.”
On Newton specifically, Jones said, “It’s his show, and I’m just there to support him and then kind of just help out the team in whatever way I can.”
Regardless of the larger plans for the player, Jones naturally couldn’t step to the (virtual) podium and declare himself the day one starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. And Belichick made sure to keep expectations on Jones from getting too high before he’s even put on a Patriots helmet for minicamp.
“We’ll see how it transfers to the NFL,” Belichick said of Jones’ eye-popping collegiate stats. “It’s a little different game. Competition is quite a bit higher, and there’s a lot more happening a lot quicker. So, I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”
Jones is coming off a season at Alabama where he threw 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions, racking up 4,500 yards, setting an NCAA record with a 77.4 percent completion rate, all while leading the Crimson Tide to a 13-0 season and a national championship. Despite that success, Belichick indicated there’s no guarantee of anything in the NFL.
“What’s going to happen at this level is going to be more complex and faster and more difficult than what happened at the last level, just like it is from high school to college. So that takes some time, that takes some adjusting to,” Belichick said. “I’m looking forward to working with Mac, I know he’s looking forward to it. It’s a big challenge, it’s a long road, it’s a big grind, but that’s what we all signed up for. So, we’re excited to move in that direction, but we all have a long way to go. So, we need to learn what he can do, he needs to learn a lot about professional football and refine his fundamentals and techniques, we need to coach all the other players as well. So, again, I just see this as a big process going forward for all of us.”
Newton’s job, though, is not permanent. Belichick was asked what it would take for Newton to no longer be the Patriots’ No. 1 QB. His answer was simple.
“Somebody would have to play better than he does,” Belichick said.MORE NEWS: Lombardi: Mac Jones Will Have 'Redshirt Year' As Rookie With Patriots