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Former Patriot Bashes Bill Belichick’s Handling of Mac Jones

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New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Mac Jones’ tenure with the New England Patriots ultimately did not work out well for either side. After a promising rookie campaign in 2021, the quarterback’s performance deteriorated over the next two seasons. Eliot Wolf traded Jones earlier this offseason to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round draft pick. But according to former Patriots running back Damien Harris, Jones should not shoulder the blame for his failures in Foxboro.

Harris joined The Athletic Football Show podcast, sharing his feelings on several topics. One theme emphasized in Damien Harris’ comments was that Mac Jones was not to blame for things failing to work out well in New England. The other is that much of the blame belongs to Bill Belichick. While defending his former quarterback, Harris was less than kind toward how his former head coach handled New England’s quarterback situation.

Also Read – Kelley: Can Mac Jones in New England Be Salvaged?

Damien Harris retired from the NFL earlier this offseason. He discussed his decision to retire and his family life. New England Patriots fans will certainly focus on his comments regarding Bill Belichick and Mac Jones.

Not Everything Was Negative

Media members and fans alike will focus on negative comments made by Damien Harris during this interview. However, it is worth noting that Harris did not sound bitter about his career. He repeatedly referred to himself as ‘”blessed” at several points. Harris rehashed the many blessings of his football life and did not omit his NFL start.

“I was able to be drafted by the world’s greatest New England Patriots. I got to play with Tom Brady for a year, I got to play for Bill Belichick.”

Harris emphasized, “I’ve been so grateful and so fortunate.”

On Bill Belichick Not Coaching

Host Robert Mays asked Damien Harris about Bill Belichick’s failure to land a head coaching job after “parting ways with the Patriots.”

“I ain’t gonna lie, I wasn’t surprised,” answered Harris. “I’m not saying that to say anything bad about Bill Belichick, but I just wasn’t surprised.”

Harris expanded on why the winningest coach of the Super Bowl Era not landing a job did not surprise him.

“He (Belichick) needs full-on control. That’s just the kind of guy Bill Belichick is. But at the same time, can you blame him? Because in the 20 years he had full-on control he had a lot of success. So, you can’t blame him. You definitely can’t blame him.”

Further Criticism of Belichick

Damien Harris finished his career with Buffalo in 2023 after spending his first four NFL seasons in New England.  He noted the difference between how the two franchises operated. There was a chain of command with the Bills. If a player wanted to complain about playing time, they could address it with their position coach. With the Patriots, everything went straight to Bill Belichick.

“That’s just intimidating,” stated Harris.

Harris referred multiple times to Belichick believing he was ‘the sole reason’ for the two decades of success in New England.

“We’re all just pawns in Bill Belichick’s game of Monopoly,” said Harris. “And we can all be moved, we can all be interchanged.”

Harris cited Belichick’s movement of coaches on his staff as evidence of Belichick’s ego. He spoke as though he was Belichick talking to one of these staff members.

“You coached here all whole life, well screw that you can coach here,” Harris said, channeling his former head coach. “Because as long as you imply and instill what I am coaching, what I am teaching, then the team will have success.”

Harris elaborated on why he believed Belichick would struggle as a head coach at this stage of his career later in the interview.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and he’s about the oldest dog in the game right now.”

Mac Jones’ Downfall

Many of Damien Harris’ strongest opinions regarded the handling of Mac Jones in New England.

“What happened to Mac Jones in New England, was not because of Mac Jones. What happened in New England to Mac Jones was because of the fact you took away an offensive coordinator (Josh McDaniels) who coached him to be a Pro Bowler and almost coached us to winning our division with a rookie quarterback in his first year.”

McDaniels left on his own accord following the 2021 season to become head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.

“Then you take Matt Patricia, who’s coached defense his entire life,” continued Harris. “Joe Judge who’s been a special teams coach, coached receivers at some point, and then you just throw them in there and say, ‘Hey, coach this kid up. He’s a first-round pick. As long as you teach him what I say, everything gonna be fine. And’ sh-t wasn’t fine.”

Harris did not blame Patricia or Judge for this problem. He placed the blame squarely on Belichick.

“Bill Belichick, being stuck in his ways, was very much  like ‘As long as I am here, as long as I am, along with Robert Kraft, the top dog at this organization, no matter who, no matter where, what position, where they coach, whatever, we will have success’.”

Damien Harris believes there is only one logical conclusion for things failing for Mac Jones in New England.

“Everybody made every excuse in the book for why Mac Jones was not having success other than what could be the obvious. The Bill Belichick, whatever that was. And from one year to the next, nothing changed other than what Bill Belichick did.”

Friends for Life

“Everybody saw the potential in Mac Jones. Everybody loved Mac Jones,” Harris said his former teammate. “And everybody was in this kid’s corner, me especially because I’ve been friends with him for a long time. We played together in college, I was in his corner just like everybody else.”

Perhaps that friendship contributed to some of Harris’ harsh comments.

In a 2021 interview before Week 1 of the regular season, Damien Harris spoke with NFL Network. He talked about his relationship with Mac Jones, who was preparing for his first NFL start. Harris replied, “Me and Mac (Jones) have been best friends since the day we met.

A friendship is not cause to discredit Damien Harris’ opinion of the Mac Jones situation in New England. However, it is worth noting the former running back is not an impartial party here. He spoke as somebody Bill Belichick moved on from in favor of a younger, more productive, and cheaper option in Rhamondre Stevenson. Harris also spoke as the best friend of Mac Jones, a quarterback whose career stalled with the Patriots under Bill Belichick.

Late Praise

Harris discussed why Bill Belichick did not get an NFL head coaching job. He discussed why Belichick was unlikely to succeed if given an opportunity in the future (’emotional intelligence’ was cited). He then praised his former coach, which felt out of place with the rest of his commentary.

“I loved playing for Bill Belichick. I don’t want everything he built to be tarnished by these conversations. ‘Did he ruin the Patriots his last few years there?’ ‘Did he ruin Mac Jones’?”

Harris added, “I respect Bill Belichick, I appreciate what he has done for the game.”

To watch the full episode of Damien Harris on the The Athletic NFL Show podcast talking about his time with the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, Mac Jones, and more, click here.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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