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Hurley: Thursday was seemingly a good day for Mac Jones

What's next step for Patriots after hiring Bill O'Brien?
What's next step for Patriots after hiring Bill O'Brien? 02:26

BOSTON -- From start to finish, the 2022 season was a bad one for Mac Jones. Really bad.

And while it's only January, the 2023 season is already off to a better start. 

That much was clear on Thursday, when a behind-the-scenes peek at the dysfunctional relationship between the quarterback and last year's quarterbacks coach Joe Judge was released. That story started hitting eyeballs just hours before Bill O'Brien was officially announced as the Patriots' new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

While there wasn't much belief that Judge would be retaining his title as QB coach after helping to engineer Jones' precipitous drop last season, Thursday's news made it official.

For the quarterback entering his third year, the significance of the move can't be overstated. While just about every football observer had a strong sense that the duo of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge was incapable of running an effective NFL offense, Bill Belichick thought otherwise. The end result was a truly wasted year for the offense and the team -- the Belichick bleeped us line from Thursday's Boston Herald story is hard to shake -- as well as a major step backward for Jones, who was coming off a very promising rookie season. 

While Jones has to bear some responsibility for his play in 2022, there's no denying the reality that he was put in a position to fail. Though his late-season outbursts during a couple of games generated headlines and discussions across TV and radio programs, he actually carried himself rather well publicly for the majority of the year. Whenever microphones or cameras were around, Jones only spoke highly of Patricia and Judge, and -- prior to Thursday's Herald story -- nothing really leaked out from the locker room indicating the level of dysfunction that was at play.

The good news for Jones and the Patriots? That's now over.

While Bill O'Brien may not be a savior, he is a known commodity. He's a more-than-capable offensive coordinator who brings instant credibility to the job, something that was sorely lacking last season. His knowledge, his experience, and his comportment all align with precisely what the Patriots and their young quarterback need.

From here, it's up to Jones to capitalize on this situation. His numbers in 2023 should be better than his rookie numbers from 2021, thus leaving the 2022 season as a forgotten relic of the past, an unnecessary hiccup on an otherwise upward trajectory in his career. If not, well, then Jones' entire NFL future will take a murky turn within the next 12 months.

But really, consider what he did in college, where he set a single-season completion percentage record at 77.4 percent while throwing 41 touchdowns and four interceptions during an undefeated, national championship season. Then consider how that collegiate performance led to a very solid first season in pro football. Jones was making the necessary steps toward establishing his career before Belichick's unique style of staff building kicked the ladder out from under him.

Now, though, he's back on track. And while forecasting out the specifics of any quarterback's long-term future is a specious endeavor, we can say with some strong confidence that Jones will now get back to making the progress he had made from 2018 to 2019, then from 2019 to 2020, and then from 2020 to 2021. He made massive jumps in each of those years, and after a grisly season working with overwhelmed and ineffective coaches, he should be able to make his biggest leap yet.

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