Belichick and the Patriots caught a break Thursday night, one that could be a big Jets problem.
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Twenty-one years ago, when the Jets drafted Chad Pennington in the first round and the Patriots drafted Tom Brady in the sixth, nobody thought there was any shot that Bill Belichick had landed a better quarterback than Bill Parcells did. In fact, even after the Patriots had won a Super Bowl, Pennington was the one being compared to Brady’s childhood idol, Joe Montana.
We all know how that played out.
Thursday night, after the Jets took BYU sensation Zach Wilson at No. 2, the 69-year-old Belichick, still at it after all these years, sat and waited and defied the analysts who said he would need to trade up to find his next quarterback. Belichick caught a break when San Francisco took Trey Lance instead of Mac Jones at No. 3, allowing the Alabama star to fall through the turbulence beneath him and land beside the greatest NFL coach of them all.
Just as Giants GM Dave Gettleman did something he’d never done before, trading down after Philadelphia jumped ahead of him for DeVonta Smith, Belichick made an unprecedented (for him) move. He drafted a quarterback in the first round, a kid trained by Nick Saban, his old friend and former defensive coordinator in Cleveland, the site of the draft. Mac Jones isn’t expected to be a better NFL player than Zach Wilson, but he does have Belichick and Josh McDaniels in his corner, and hey, wouldn’t that just be the Jets’ luck?
Wilson seems like a whale of a prospect on tape. He radiates charisma as he arrives bright-eyed and bushy-haired in New York. (If this quarterback thing doesn’t work out, that hairstyle could surely get him an anchorman’s job.) “A dream come true, and it’s just the beginning,” he tweeted. “You haven’t seen anything yet! RT if you’re with me @nyjets fans!”
Wilson was 11-1 last season while completing 73.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 33 touchdowns against three interceptions and posting a 196.4 rating. He accounted for five touchdowns and 425 passing yards in a Boca Raton Bowl victory over Central Florida.
Jones was 13-0 last season while completing 77.4 percent of his passes, throwing for 41 touchdowns against four interceptions, and posting a 203.1 rating. He accounted for five touchdowns and 464 passing yards in a national championship victory over Ohio State.
That clearly doesn’t mean Jones is the better prospect. It might only mean he played for a much better team.
Wilson is certainly more athletic and better equipped to make off-platform throws (I love those draft expressions). On the other hand, Jones is clearly more athletic and better equipped to make off-platform throws than the legend he’s most compared to — the dimpled guy who happened to win six Super Bowls for Jones’ new boss.
For all the laughs generated by Brady’s physique (or lack thereof), foot speed and combine videotape after his uneven career at Michigan, he was probably a better athlete than he was ever given credit for. He was once an 18th-round pick of the Montreal Expos as a power-hitting catcher. I mean, how unathletic can you be if you’re drafted by two professional sports leagues?
Either way, it’s hard to recall a prospect who seems more like Brady than Jones, who doesn’t have the explosive physical skills of the four quarterbacks taken ahead of him — Trevor Lawrence, Wilson, Lance and Justin Fields. By all accounts, Jones does have off-the-charts poise, accuracy, leadership traits, and an ability to get the ball out quickly and to distribute it to all available weapons. His two Alabama receivers drafted in the top 10, Jaylen Waddle and Smith, have both said they would take Jones over his predecessor, Tua Tagovailoa, as the quarterback they’d prefer to play with.
So that already puts Jones ahead of Miami’s starter in the AFC East. Buffalo’s Josh Allen is still the quarterback to beat, but the race is now on to see which young gun has the goods to ultimately unseat him.
Truth is, Wilson eventually leading the post-Sam Darnold Jets from their 2-14 abyss to their first Super Bowl trip since man stepped on the moon is the best available story, and one I would prefer to New England’s re-emergence as a divisional force. But Belichick has haunted the Jets ever since he effectively forced them to trade him to Foxborough in a deal that helped the Jets carry four first-round picks into the 2000 draft, with one used on Pennington, a very good player compromised by injury.
The Patriots selected an alleged stiff from Michigan 181 picks later. In the spring of 2021, the good news for Jets fans is that Tom Brady is long gone.
The bad news is that Bill Belichick might be back.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Ian O'Connor