Mac & Cheese

I wanted winter to end, not football season. The excitement and enthusiasm rookie quarterback Mac Jones brought to the New England Patriots returned some of the energy that was missing last year. Nothing against Cam Newton. I liked his showmanship and his hat collection. It was his performance on the field that was the problem. 

I didn’t become a football fan until later in life. Football was always something that happened in the background on Sunday afternoons, watched in side-eye if there was an amazing touchdown pass or a spectacular tackle. I started to take notice of the game at the beginning of the end of the Drew Bledsoe years. When visiting my mom on Sunday afternoons, the game was always on her TV, and her enthusiasm for the sport was contagious. She also had a mad crush on Drew Bledsoe. You could tell from the many newspaper clippings of him she scotch-taped to her refrigerator.

When Bledsoe departed the team, Tom Brady’s meteoric rise caught my attention, along with the rest of the world’s. Overnight I became a fan who didn’t want to miss a game. When my oldest son was in college in the mid-2000’s, football Sundays became our father-son bonding ritual. Over time, the Sunday parties expanded, along with the number of guests, the food, the drinks, and our waistlines. And Tom Brady gave us something to celebrate every week.

My Super Bowl parties became annual events. The parties always had more meaning when New England was in the game. The Patriots made sure they were in the mix every year. It was a wild, glorious ride that was fun to be part of. 

When Tom Brady left the Patriot’s under circumstances still being debated, football in New England changed forever. Or so I thought. The Patriots drafted Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, making Jones the fifth QB taken in the first round as New England hoped to start a new dynasty with a bright young prospect.

Jones was thrust into the spotlight at center stage with some big shoes to fill. The comparisons to a young Tom Brady were enough to make any Patriot’s fan believe lightning could strike twice. This season had a lot of high points. Mac Jones set a Patriot’s record for most touchdowns by a rookie quarterback. But you can’t have the highs without the lows. And the lows were enough for some fair-weather fans to jump off the bandwagon and throw Mac under the bus. Let’s just call this a transition year and move on to Cincinnati. Am I right, Bill?

I believe in the impossible. I had no doubt a rookie QB could take New England to the Super Bowl. I even thought if the stars aligned, the Patriots would play Tampa Bay for the trophy in February. Mac Jones versus Tom Brady would be a dream come true for New England fans, not to mention sportscasters everywhere. I was disappointed when the Dolphins bumped the Patriots out of the playoffs (although not as disappointed as former player Julian Edelman who placed a $100,000 bet that NE would play Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl).

For the rest of this season, the pressure is off. Being an armchair quarterback is easy in retrospect. My advice for fans: be happy for what you have. A rookie quarterback who takes his team to the playoffs doesn’t happen that often. That’s a sure sign of good things to come. My advice for Mac Jones: keep doing those Navy SEAL deep-breathing exercises. Relax. Enjoy playing the game. It’s only matter of time when everything starts to click. And when it does, that click is gonna be measured on the Richter Scale. 

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