By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — If you can imagine, there once was a time when the NFL preseason barely registered on the consciousness of sports fans. It took place, yes, but it was far from the cottage industry it is today. If they were even viewed at all, games weren’t scrutinized as deeply as they are nowadays. Stats weren’t shared across the world. Breakdowns of the sixth-string cornerbacks didn’t take place.

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Now, of course, things have changed. NFL preseason games get more ratings than real games in other sports. National highlight shows break down the plays and the story lines. We get stats, grades, analysis, all-22, GIFs, replays, and everything else you’d expect out of postseason football games. Except we get it in August. In the preseason.

It’s a bit wild, but it’s also reality.

Part of our present-day reality involves Pro Football Focus assigning grades from 0-100 for every player. Throughout the preseason, Mac Jones ranked highly on this subjective scale. We’ve taken note of that here, observing that Mac Jones was the highest-graded quarterback in the NFL through two preseason weeks, and that Mac Jones had the highest PFF grade among the five first-round rookie quarterbacks this summer.

So with all of that being established, we can now introduce some news that Patriots fans may keenly care about now that Jones is the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots, following Cam Newton’s surprising release on Tuesday morning.

We might as well just write it.

OK.

Here goes.

Since PFF began tracking and grading preseasons, Mac Jones’ grade of 92.2 is … (deep breath) … (we can do this) … it is the best quarterback grade ever.

That was part one.

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Here goes part two. This is the tough one.

OK: In doing so, Jones surpassed the previous holder of the highest preseason PFF grade for a rookie QB ever. The quarterback who previously held that distinction? Well. You see. His name is … Patrick Mahomes.

Sweet sassy molasses. That’s a heavy tweet.

So, what’s it mean? Obviously, not a ton, because it’s still the preseason. The Patriots — like all teams — have seen some standout preseason performances in the past decade or so. It’s not an indicator of success in real games.

It’s notable, though, in that Mahomes started only one game as a rookie but has since become pretty much the unanimous pick as the best quarterback alive. He’s been to two Super Bowls and an AFC Championship Game in the past three years, winning one championship and an MVP Award while earning a First Team All-Pro and a Second Team All-Pro spot. Approaching his 26th birthday, he figures to just be getting started on a Hall of Fame career.

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While this PFF preseason grade doesn’t automatically put Jones on the same path … it is nevertheless the type of comparison that any rookie QB would like to draw after his first taste of NFL action.