Mac Jones: The Unlikely Hero

By George Somerville

In the wake of his impresive Senior Bowl week, George Somerville looks at the meteroic rise of Mac Jones from three star recruit and reluctant QB1 of Alabama to a potential 1st round NFL Draft pick:

Fairytale Or Fate?

Mac Jones
Credit: Kevin C. Cox (Getty Images)

As any philosopher worth his salt will tell you, there is a reason for everything.

So maybe back in 2019, in that ill-fated game where Tua Tagovailoa suffered a season ending injury and all of Tuscaloosa mounted the loss of their superstar quarterback. Maybe – just maybe – there was a grander plan in place.

However, if then and in the remaining four games until the end of that season, culminating in the Crimson Tide beating Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, you had told me that Mac Jones – Alabama’s fill-in quarterback – would go on to be a Heisman finalist, lead his side to a National Championship and put himself in position to be a first round draft pick? Well, I would be the fool on the hill and run out of T-Town…..

In fact, most Crimson Tide fans didn’t even expect Jones to be the starter for the 2020 season. The word on the Tuscaloosa streets was that Californian wunderkind Bryce Jones was the heir apparent to the Tua crown. That was the Saban plan.

Except we all underestimated the quiet, unassuming quarterback from Jacksonville, Florida who grew up idolising Tim Tebow…

Changing The Narrative

Mac Jones
Credit: Vasha Hunt (Associated Press)

Michael McCorkle Jones, or Mac Jones as we all know him now, arrived in Tuscaloosa at a time when Jalen Hurst and Tua Tagovailoa were slugging it out like they were at the OK Corral. And let me not remind you as to how that whole situation played out.

But Mac was seen as someone who could fill the QB3 jersey while Saban and Sarkisian wooed the Californian Bryce Young from the West to the Deep South and be the future at the position.

Fast forward to 2021 and despite Jones’ cameo role in the wake of Tua’s injury, Young was expected to get the nod. But as the strange summer of COVID went on with limited practice, something changed. Jones’ familiarity with Coach Sark’s playbook gave him a distinct advantage over his freshman teammate, and word soon spread that Jones and not Young would start at QB for the Tide. Considering the backdrop to the disjointed offseason this seemed sensible; start with Jones and ease the Young kid in as chances arose.

Except Mac Jones didn’t fancy that at all. Forcing his coaches to stick with him throughout the year, Jones went on to literally have the season of his life.

On his way to a National Championship Jones threw for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdown’s. Amongst all of that Mac threw only 4 interceptions. Yes – no typo – FOUR interceptions. Ball security in Tuscaloosa isn’t jus a priority, it’s a religion. So much in the same way that Najee rarely fumbled the ball and Smitty rarely dropped the ball, Mac rarely threw an interception.

In completing his final season at Alabama, Mac Jones was a Heisman runner up, won the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards and was voted a 2020 consensus All American. Again, predict that in 2019 and I am labelled a crazy man.

Stealing The Senior Bowl

Mac Jones
Credit: Vasha Hunt (USA Today Sports)

So fast forward to last week’s Senior Bowl that Alabama players attended in force.

McCorkle had a fine week in Mobile, demonstrating all of his attributes across the week of practice. A rolled ankle meant he did not play in Saturday’s game, however Jones did more than enough to get himself noticed by the NFL teams in attendance.

Jones told the media in attendance of his Senior Bowl experience:

“I’ve learned so much about NFL quarterback play and that’s really the biggest reason I wanted to come down… I think I showed [scouts] I’m a great leader and I love being in the huddle with those guys, making jokes and running plays to the best of our abilities. I like the huddle because you can verbalise everything and that’s what I showed.”

Jones confirmed that he met with the Patriots, Texans and Saints during the week. He was also coached by the Panthers coaching staff during the event, meaning Panthers HC Matt Rhule had an up close view of his abilities. With The Senior Bowl the only real showcase of this COVID-affected draft season, nobody took advantage more than Jones did.

Draft Destiny

Mac Jones
Credit: USA Today Sports

So that leads us to the NFL Draft itself. From mock drafts being currently rolled out, many draft analysts have Jones going in the first round – with the Chicago Bears being a popular landing spot.

However, the Saints – who Jones seems to have gotten on well with during Senior Bowl week – is also a reasonable landing spot for the Floridian.

Fellow College Chap and Touchdown writer Oli Hodgkinson has Jones being picked at #21 in his latest mock draft on PFN, starting his NFL career in Indianapolis; again a sensible destination.

With his excellent accuracy and ingrained disciplined ball security, NFL teams will be attracted to Jones. However the one thing that Jones is not, is mobile. So for teams whose offensive scheme demands a Kyler Murray or Deshaun Watson, Jones is not the guy. But when you ask the experts where Jones may land the answer is wide and varied as Washington to Pittsburgh, the Panthers to the Lions, the 49ers to the Bears. It seems the world is Jones’ oyster.

But again, all of this seemed improbable a year ago, which is testament to the hard work that Jones has shown throughout the year – with a little bit of fate thrown in as well. Anyone who knows football will tell you luck is a huge part of success, and this quarterback has more than earned his slice.

Michael McCorkle Jones, ladies and gentlemen. Remember the name.
Mock Draft

george somerville

College football writer