Former Patriots running back Damien Harris points finger at Bill Belichick for unsuccessful Mac Jones era

June 9, 2024
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Mac Jones’ tumultuous run with the New England Patriots came to an end in March when the Jacksonville Jaguars acquired the quarterback in a trade.

Despite helping lift the Patriots to one playoff appearance and earning Pro Bowl honors in 2021, Jones’ tenure was largely considered unsuccessful. 

Many have offered opinions on why the former Alabama quarterback didn’t pan out in New England. But one of Jones’ former teammates pointed the finger at six-time Super Bowl winner Bill Belichick.

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Mac Jones and Damien Harris celebrate

Mac Jones, left, and running back Damien Harris of the New England Patriots celebrate a touchdown against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 19, 2021, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Getty Images)

Harris spent three seasons as New England’s running back and played with Jones at Alabama for two years. 

The running back made an appearance on “The Athletic Football Show” last week and suggested that Belichick should shoulder a considerable amount of the blame as it related to Jones’ shortcomings. 

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

Josh McDaniels was the Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2021. He was named the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in January 2022. 

Bill Belichick and Mac Jones chat before a game

Head coach Bill Belichick and Mac Jones during pregame at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 11, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

“We drafted Mac. We had a h— of a year… went on to win seven straight. At that time we were kind of looking at ourselves like we might have a Super Bowl run here,” Harris said.

Harris then addressed Belichick’s unconventional decision to give Matt Patricia and Joe Judge the keys to the Patriots offense.

“Then you take Matt Patricia, who’s coached defense his entire life. Joe Judge, who’s been a special teams coach… and then you just throw them in there and say, ‘Hey, coach this kid up. He’s a first-round pick, but as long as you teach him what I say, everything gonna be fine.’”

Harris added that Belichick was “stuck in his ways,” which he believes ultimately played a role in Jones getting traded.

Belichick arms folded

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick before Super Bow LII against the Philadelphia Eagles at US Bank Stadium. Minneapolis. (Simon Bruty /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

“Now Mac Jones is in Jacksonville… the breath of Mac Jones in New England – it came and went. It shouldn’t have [gone] the way that it went,” Harris continued. “The only reason that it did was because Bill Belichick, being stuck in his ways, was very much so ‘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.’”

After spending his first nine seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers, the Patriots brought in 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton in 2020. Harris claimed the decision to add Newton to the roster was at least partly due to Belichick’s ego.

“I think that started kind of was this Cam Newton situation… everybody was like, ‘What the [expletive] is this? Why Cam Newton?’ Bill thought that he could make it work. It didn’t really work.” 

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Harris signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills in 2023. He announced his retirement from football in March. Despite his recent comments on Belichick, Harris celebrated the fact that he had the opportunity to play for him in the NFL. He described Nick Saban and Belichick as “the [two] greatest head coaches of all time.”

“For the past 20 years, playing the game of football has been one of the greatest privileges in my life,” Harris wrote. “Getting to represent the name on the back of my jersey on and off the field, getting to compete at the highest level with and against the best competitors while winning championships, and being coached by the 2 greatest head coaches of all time in Nick Saban and Bill Belichick are all just a small part of what God has done in my life with the game of football.” 

Belichick was the de facto general manager during his lengthy tenure in New England. He reportedly had final say over the roster during much of his time on the Patriots’ sideline. The Patriots and Belichick “mutually agreed to part ways, amicably” in January after 24 years together.

Every NFL team with a job opening in the most recent hiring cycle passed on Belichick, leaving him without a head coaching gig for the first time in decades.

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