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Bill Belichick's Biggest Gamble Yet: Mac Jones Lands Starting QB Role as Patriots Release Cam NewtonPHILADELPHIA, PA – Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks to Mac Jones against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half of the preseason game at the Lincoln Financial Field on August 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 35-0. (Photo : Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The future is now for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots as they decided to install rookie Mac Jones as their starting quarterback for the 2021 NFL season in a stunning move on Tuesday. Last year’s starter Cam Newton was the biggest casualty in Jones’ sudden ascent to QB1 status as the Patriots opted to release the veteran quarterback just a few days before the start of the new campaign.

Jones managed to grab the coveted role by playing well in the Pats’ three preseason games, completing 36 of 52 passes for 389 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. New England gave him every opportunity to show his wares with Jones playing a total of 107 snaps, the highest among the Patriots quarterbacks this preseason.

Belichick drops the ax on Newton in surprise move

It still was a major surprise, though, to see Newton lose in the quarterback battle as he started in every Patriots game this preseason. However, he played just 39 snaps through the three preseason games, completing 14 of 21 passes for 162 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Head coach Bill Belichick did not indicate that the Patriots would cut Newton in the days leading up to his release, even telling reporters early Tuesday morning that the former Panthers QB was heading in the right direction when asked about his performances during preseason and training camp.

It appears that direction was outside the Patriots organization as Belichick made it clear with his decision that New England is Mac Jones’ team right now. Jones is a proven winner, capturing the national title and the Davey O’Brien Award for best collegiate quarterback last season with Alabama.

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Jones earns the respect of Patriots teammates

During this year’s draft, Jones was rumored to be a target for the San Francisco 49ers, but they eventually selected Trey Lance as the No. 3 overall pick. The Patriots stopped Jones’ freefall in the draft, selecting him as the No. 15 overall pick, making him the first quarterback to be selected by New England in the first round in the Belichick era.

Jones has rewarded the Patriots’ faith in him, impressing in training camp and preseason to join the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence and the New York Jets’ Zach Wilson as the only rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 1 of the 2021 season.

Jones has earned the respect of his veteran teammates, including offensive tackle Trent Brown and captain Matthew Slater. Brown said that Jones was special and was making “throws that not many young guys can make.” Slater, on the other hand, said that Jones is a great young man, and he’s earned respect from the older guys “by the way that he’s gone about his craft.”