Mac Jones' victory in New England's quarterback competition came as a surprise to many, but not him.
The rookie quarterback said Tuesday he wasn't shocked by the outcome, explaining he always approached his first season as if he was the quarterback atop the depth chart.
"Not really. Like I always say, I prepare to be the starter," Jones said during an appearance on WEEI. "I got a chance to get a lot of reps. Nothing really changes. Just trying to be a good teammate, trying to learn the plays every day, fix what I messed up on and listen to [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] and all the guys in the quarterback room and take the advice."
Jones' approach produced a promotion and resulted in the release of veteran Cam Newton, who most assumed would end up being the Patriots' Week 1 starter. Instead, it's Jones, who expressed gratitude for his brief period spent as Newton's teammate, understudy and eventual successor.
"He was a really good mentor to me," Jones said. "I know we'll stay in touch. Ever since I came here, he knew I was here to help him and he was here to help me, so I never felt like we were butting heads or anything like that.
"Obviously Cam is a great guy, a great player, and hopefully he lands somewhere. I definitely learned a lot from him and I'm excited to keep learning from Brian [Hoyer] and everyone in the quarterback room."
Jones put together a stellar preseason for a rookie quarterback, one that ranked as the best ever in the eyes of Pro Football Focus, and the Patriots apparently agreed. They'll forge ahead with a starter who lacks experience, but brings with him plenty of optimism and signals the start of a new era for the Patriots following their separation from venerated franchise hero Tom Brady. If Jones' career can mirror that of Brady's, New England will be plenty happy to have spent its first-round pick on the former Alabama passer, and Jones might just earn himself a gold jacket. For now, though, it's about getting his feet under him, not about charting a course for Canton.
There is, however, a tinge of gold already associated with Jones, and it's not just the shimmering shade of the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy. Newton nicknamed Jones "Mac and Cheese" while the two shared the quarterbacks room in Foxborough, but he won't be around to continue referring to his younger counterpart as a golden, delicious side dish. Instead, the Patriots will hope their first season with Jones is as enjoyable as a heaping helping of melted cheese over noodles (or shells, if you're a true mac and cheese expert).
Perhaps Jones will even be able to sprinkle some tasty bread crumbs over New England's dish, topping it off with an assortment of wins and a return to the postseason.