There was speculation that a reshuffle of the draft would have resulted in Jones being the first quarterback selected, rather than Lawrence. The concept is now as outdated as the rotary telephone. The portfolio of passers has changed and reevaluated due to coaching changes. Coaching can’t make a mediocre young quarterback, but it can ruin a promising young one. Just ask Jones.
While Jones struggled to adjust to changes made by de facto offensive coordinator Matt Patricia and questionable offensive assistant/quarterback Joe Judge, Lawrence thrived under the new regime in Jacksonville.
After a disastrous rookie season under Urban Meyer and interim coach Darrell Bevell, Lawrence has thrived under Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Pres Taylor. Pederson is best known in these parts as the former coach of the Philadelphia Eagles who ate Bill Belichick and Patricia for dinner during their Super Bowl LII victory. Taylor was the mastermind behind the famous “Philly Special” stunt in that Super Bowl.
Lawrence now looks like a can’t-miss QB coming out of Clemson, considered a passing prospect at the level of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, not the lost guy he played as a rookie.
In Jacksonville’s six games since Week 9, Lawrence is the league’s top-rated passer (111.2 rating) and tied for the lowest interception ratio (0.4). He threw 14 passes — or twice as many as Jones had all season — and just one interception while completing a league-best 70.4 percent.
On the season, Lawrence threw more passes (24) than Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, as well as Tua Tagovailoa. After throwing a league-high 17 interceptions as a rookie, he has seven this season, one less than Jones, despite having 164 more pass attempts. Lawrence also has four rushing touchdowns tied for the team lead.
Lawrence is making the second-year leap expected for Jones, who has instead fallen on hard times. He is now a passer of penny stocks.
His left tackle, Trent Brown, briefly liked an Instagram post Tuesday from ESPN that said the Patriots should explore dealing with Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo to upgrade at quarterback.
After dropping five in a row, the Jaguars rallied with Lawrence to win four of six. They are now trailing the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South lead. The Jaguars (6-8) trail the Titans by a game heading into their Thursday Night Football tilt with the New York Jets.
That’s not a condemnation of Jones, but it is a condemnation of premature quarterback evaluations without meaningful context.
Lawrence was in a situation last year where he didn’t have a chance to succeed with the over-summarized Meyer, who has turned out to be a top-level coaching charlatan and an embarrassment to the Jacksonville franchise, which is saying something.
Jones was in the best position compared to rookie passers. He was the most ready for the NFL. He enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with a sophisticated offensive coordinator/quarterback whisperer in Josh McDaniels and the benefit of the game’s best coach in Belichick.
The situation has changed and so has their fate.
Now, Jones’ highlights are his heated histrionics as the Patriots’ offensive operation dwindles week by week. Or worse, Jones was rear-ended by ex-Patriot Chandler Jones in a side-impact crash in Las Vegas. Jones is coming off a career-worst completion percentage (13-of-31 for 41.9 percent) in the embarrassing loss to the Raiders.
Meanwhile, Lawrence’s performance has gone from epic failure to simply epic. He led his team to a 27-10 third quarter victory over the Dallas Cowboys last week, throwing a career-high four touchdown passes. In back-to-back games, Lawrence set career highs in passing yards (368 vs. Tennessee) and TD passes.
Before throwing the puck against Dallas, Lawrence had thrown 204 passes without an interception. (It’s not all perfect for Lawrence, though, as he leads the league in losses with seven.)
Who would you bet your future on right now, Jones or Lawrence?
Lawrence always had a more natural talent. Jones wasn’t the second coming some wanted to label him as last season, strictly because he wore a Patriots uniform. But Jones is a better quarterback than that. The Patriots practically wrote the playbook this offseason on how to screw up a good young QB and devalue a promising asset.
Meanwhile, Lawrence got his first round of competent NFL coaching and thrived.
It is hard to believe how decisively the fortunes of Jones and Lawrence have changed.
Just this calendar year, Jones and the Patriots dropped 50 points on the lowly Jaguars in Lawrence. The Patriots defeated the Jaguars 50-10 on Jan. 2 at Gillette Stadium in the final game of the regular season. Jones threw three passes and was an efficient 22 of 30 for 227 yards. Running for his life, Lawrence threw three interceptions and finished 17 of 27 for 193 yards.
Offensively, scoring 50 points feels like ages ago for the Patriots. This would be the equivalent of a manned mission to Mars.
That’s why putting too much stock in early earnings from the dice can be a risky proposition.
After one season, Jones looks like a stock QB and Lawrence looks like a blue chipper who could change the fortunes of one of the NFL’s most successful franchises.