After a chaotic and disappointing 2022 season for New England, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is entering offseason team activities with a positive mindset and a new offensive coordinator in Bill O'Brien.
Jones said the presence of O'Brien in the locker room has already brought the offense more in sync.
"It's been normal. I think everything he's done so far has been really good," he said Wednesday, via team transcripts. "I think the communication is the most important part, and trust. I think it all starts with that when you're with a new coach. He's done a great job in controlling the room. I feel like everyone's on the same page. We've just got to continue to do it; it's a marathon, not a sprint."
The Patriots offense never really got things going in 2022, with Jones overall struggling in his second year at the helm, finishing in the bottom-half of the league in most passing categories. A large part of the disjointed nature of the unit can be attributed to the decision not to have an official offensive coordinator, instead entrusting the duties to assistants Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, both of whom are generally viewed as defensive or special teams minds.
All this led to New England missing a playoff berth with an 8-9 record, just the team's second losing record since 2000.
Once the season concluded, the Patriots hired O'Brien, who has extensive experience coaching at the college and NFL levels, including time as the Texans' head coach from 2014-2020, and has history with New England as offensive assistant and then coordinator there from 2007-2011.
O'Brien also has a familiar background for Jones, as both spent time at Alabama recently. While there wasn't much overlap between the pair's time at the university, each has learned the same system, meaning they speak about football with similar terms. Jones said that combination of familiar language and O'Brien's extensive coaching experience has amped up his excitement to work with him in 2023.
"I can't get into specifics, but I think for me, it's terminology and things like that, that are definitely things I've seen before in the past," Jones said. "OB's been around and he's taken a lot of good things from each stop. I feel like, for me, it's just being a sponge. Whatever quarterback he's coached, I can learn from, whether that's Bryce [Young] or Deshaun [Watson], or at Penn State. He has such great experience in this league, and in football and in the football world.
"It's like a walking dictionary; just pick his brain and see the game how he sees it, how I see it, and then come together and mesh to create a really good offense."
With O'Brien guiding him, the hope is that in his third year Jones will be able to provide proof that he can be the franchise QB and Tom Brady successor that the Patriots were looking for when they drafted him No. 15 overall in 2021. Jones said that he's put in the work to learn from last season's struggles, but is still looking to approach the upcoming season with confidence in his abilities.
"I think every year is a new year, right? It's a lot easier to say that after you have a really good year," Jones said. "I think some of the learning experiences I had last year will really help. There's a lot of things I could do better. I know that as a person, as a player, there's things I could grow upon. But, really it's about this year. We've got new faces in the room; it's all about earning the respect of everybody, every day. So, I'm starting fresh just like everybody else is. I'm going to run my own race, and look up at the end and see where I'm at."
The 24-year-old acknowledged that throughout his football career, he's played for winning teams, from college ball at Alabama to the Patriots' recent history of Super Bowl wins. So having to work through struggles was not something he was used to dealing with, but it was nevertheless a "learning experience" that he has embraced as a step on the path to future NFL success.
"Like I said, confidence comes from years of practice and doing well, and also not doing well," Jones said. "Sometimes the most confident people come from a year where they might not have been their best, and I feel like that's where I'm at. We all feel like that, so we're all hungry. Confidence comes with time, but it's also something that you can look back on too, not just worrying about things that happened in the past, but also focusing on the future."