It started in the NFL Draft with the Atlanta Falcons.
This past summer, new Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith were faced with a dilemma. The new regime had to decide on whether taking a quarterback of the future was the smart play.
Smith still saw value (and a financial tie) in veteran Matt Ryan despite regression during 2020's 4-12 season. Fontenot wanted to look past the post-Ryan era and bring in a quarterback for the long-term future.
The draft came. Atlanta chose tight end Kyle Pitts, allowing two quarterbacks to fall deeper down the board. One of the players Atlanta could have taken was Mac Jones.
New England took Jones at No. 15, and since he's looked like the NFL's Rookie of the Year. On Thursday, Fontenot and Smith saw first-hand how special the rookie QB could be in a 25-0 loss at home.
"The last two games have not been good enough, but it's a long season," Smith said. "We have seven games, and we're going to figure this thing out."
Jones wasn't perfect, but he out-dueled Ryan with ease. Patriots quarterbacks and high completion percentage seem to go hand-in-hand.
Sound anything like Tom Brady?
Jones finished 22 for 26 for 207 yards and a touchdown on the way to New England's seventh win of the season. One pass was overthrown. Another intercepted by Falcons' cornerback A.J. Terrell.
Outside of that, just about flawless. Jones needed less than 250 yards passing again to lead his team to victory. New England converted four times on third down and won the time of possession by nearly six minutes (32:43-27:17).
"Didn't like the last two games we played, just got a come together, play a complete game," Terrell said. "As a team, we just have to play a complete game there are things we could have done better on defense."
As for Pitts, the player Atlanta ended up taking, he continues to be a driving force offensively and Ryan's go-to weapon. Thursday was a down night with three catches for only 29 yards.
Round 1 goes to Jones in the rookie vs. rookie bout.
Fontenot might have been onto something when looking for a quarterback. In the past two games, the Falcons have been outscored 68-3. Ryan has thrown a pair of interceptions in both games.
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Backup QB and former top 10-pick Josh Rosen threw a pick-six in the final two minutes. Rookie Feleipe Franks threw one a play later.
"It's been a tough five games offensively," Ryan said. "We haven't thrown the ball well enough. We haven't run the ball well enough."
Ryan, 36, is showing that perhaps retirement is near. In today's league, teams live and die by the quarterback position.
Would Jones have saved Atlanta's season in 2021?
No. There's far more issues in the trenches on both sides that Fontenot must address this offseason.
It doesn't mean looking to the future can't hurt.
Jones landed in an offense that caters to his skill. Coming out of Alabama, the rookie set FBS records in completion and passer rating for a single season. Jones limits mistakes and complete drives with consistent passing.
Another quarterback with similar numbers? Tennessee Titans starter Ryan Tannehill, who Smith coached before coming to Atlanta. During their two seasons in Tennessee, Tannehill revived his career, finishing with a completion rating of 67.9 and a passer rating of 112.
Through 11 games, Jones has completed 70.2 percent of his passes and currently owns a passer rating of 94.7. Imagine two years from now if Fontenot could build around the young gun with running backs and offensive linemen.
Super Bowl champs in five years? It's not crazy.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Atlanta shouldn't be upset with its selection of Pitts, who Patriots coach Bill Belichick said would "set records" in the future.
But tight ends don't drive a team to success. Quarterbacks do. In large part, Jones' maturity and development to the offense has factored in a rebound season for New England.
Falcons fans likely will ponder entering the weekend how much Ryan still has left in tank. Another thought: Would Jones have been the right pick at No. 4?