It wasn’t exactly definitive, but Bill Belichick finally gave Mac Jones a vote of confidence.
Reports have swirled around the Patriots throughout the offseason that they were shopping Jones, who is entering his third season since New England selected him with the No. 15-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Belichick was asked point blank following the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft Friday night if Jones was the team’s starting quarterback at the moment.
“Yeah, I mean, look, Mac’s been our quarterback for two years,” Belichick answered, per ESPN. “As I tell the team every year, each player, each coach, we all have to re-establish and prove ourselves every year. That’s what this league is. That’s for all of us. ’23 is ’23.”
New England did not draft a quarterback with any of its picks in the first three rounds, instead using all three picks on defensive players.
Jones enjoyed a strong rookie season, completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while being named to the Pro Bowl and finishing as the runner-up for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Patriots finished with a 10-7 record and earned a postseason berth.
He struggled last year during his second season, however, after Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left to become the Raiders head coach and was replaced by a combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge.
Patricia and Judge’s backgrounds were on defense and special teams, respectively, prior to running the Patriots offense.
Jones regressed across the board, completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 2,9997 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as the Patriots finished 6-8 and missed the playoffs.
Multiple reports subsequently linked the Patriots with trying to find a trade partner for Jones, who was critical of the team’s offense at times last season.
“Well, I’m not going to respond to anonymous quotes,” Belichick responded to a question about the reports.
Jones was benched during the Patriots’ Week 7 loss to the Bears last year for Bailey Zappe, whom the Patriots selected in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Zappe had performed well in the three games prior to filling in for the injured Jones, but Jones subsequently maintained his starting role the next week and throughout the rest of the season.
The Patriots brought in Bill O’Brien to be the team’s new offensive coordinator this year, who said everyone is moving forward with a “fresh start, a clean slate.”
Trace McSorley is the third quarterback on the Patriots roster.