Devin McCourty defends Mac Jones as Patriots' QB of future

Matthew Judon explains how Mac Jones can control his emotions (0:59)

Matthew Judon joins "NFL Live" to discuss some of the struggles Mac Jones faced this past season. (0:59)

Longtime New England Patriots captain Devin McCourty passionately defended Mac Jones as the team's quarterback of the future, adding that team leaders such as Jones are encouraged by coach Bill Belichick to speak up.

"What I love about Mac is that Mac came into a leadership role as a quarterback and he speaks to what he thinks," McCourty said Monday during an appearance on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

"I think what people don't always understand, in our locker room, Bill pushes that. We're in the captains meeting every week, [and he'll say] 'If you don't like something, tell us and we'll throw it out.' Because what's the point of players going out there and saying, as soon as that call comes in, 'I know we hate this call but ...' No one wants to be out there with that."

McCourty's answer came in reference to anonymous reports that Jones "rubbed people wrong" in New England in 2022, which included a play in a December game in which he was fined $13,367 for unnecessary roughness for sliding in front of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple during the return of a fumble. Jones' emotions also bubbled over at times in frustration.

McCourty, who is pondering a return for a 14th season in New England, noted that Jones' development was affected by changes on the team's coaching staff and believes the addition of offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien should help in 2023.

"He's going to have stability around him," McCourty said. "You get to work with Josh McDaniels, who I think is one of the best offensive minds in this league, your rookie year. And then you get Matty P [Matt Patricia], with a mixture of Joe Judge, with Coach Belichick -- all guys who were new to calling the actual offense. ... It's just so much movement, so much change, and it's only your second year.

"But I think it speaks volumes, he's a captain in that locker room, in only his second year and really was kind of a captain before as a rookie leading those guys. So, I'm excited for Mac. I think sky is the limit. I think he's the future of New England. Any doubts I think you're wrong if you don't think that. He's in that building right now doing different things, working with guys, talking to guys, that's what he wants.

"So, I think Mac has all the intangibles and the things that you want in a quarterback. Hopefully Billy O is there for a while, and I think you'll see the true growth."

Jones played in the Pro Bowl as an alternate in his rookie season, after he started all 17 regular-season games and finished 352-of-521 for 3,801 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The Patriots lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs that year, 47-17 to the Buffalo Bills.

In 2022, Jones missed almost four full games with a high ankle sprain and was 288-of-442 for 2,997 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl this year, owner Robert Kraft told Fox Business: "We're blessed to have a great, young quarterback in Mac Jones. I'm a strong believer in him and his development."

In the aftermath of the team's 8-9 season, coach Bill Belichick said of Jones: "Mac has the ability to play quarterback in this league. We have to all work together to try to find the best way as a football team, which obviously the quarterback is an important position, to be more productive than we were this year."