FOXBORO — In the waning moments of the 1942 classic film, Casablanca, Rick Blaine (portrayed by screen legend Humphrey Bogart) utters a line that has since become immortalized in the lexicon of pop culture.
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Blaine said as he walked off with police captain Louis Renault into the foggy night.
While an informal offseason throwing session might not provide the same degree of dramatic backdrop as a World War II-era Moroccan airport, it might have given New England Patriots fans a glimpse of things to come for their offense in 2022.
Earlier this year, biomechanics pioneer and renowned throwing coach Tom House created quite a social media stir when he informed the masses about working with “someone new” prior to the start of the NFL season.
Among those who ‘liked’ the tweet was Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.
During a statistically stellar rookie campaign in 2021, the Alabama product led the Pats back to the playoffs after a one-year absence. For his efforts, Jones earned a Pro Bowl selection, as well as a spot on PFWA’s All-Rookie team.
Intent on avoiding the dreaded ‘one-hit-wonder’ moniker, Jones adapted a stricter offseason workout regimen and healthier diet heading into his second season with the Pats. As a result, he has looked leaner and has impressed his teammates with his work ethic and leadership skills.
Accordingly, Jones has also taken the proper steps not only to increase his velocity, but also to build upon his accuracy in various spots on the field. Those preparations involved collaborating with House, confirming that he had been among the “new” athletes with whom the quarterback guru had worked earlier this year.
“I worked on throwing the ball,” Jones remarked. “Deep … short … intermediate … doesn’t matter. There are ways to improve. Fine-tuning each throw. I worked on throwing in all conditions and increasing my knowledge on that.”
However, New England’s 2021 first-round draft pick clearly had his struggles down the stretch. He was less accurate, made more rookie mistakes and had difficulty when defenses were able to adjust to take away his preferred routes and targets. As Jones slumped, so did the Patriots. New England lost four of its final five games following the team’s Week 14 bye, as well as their playoff matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
Though some have attributed his late-season swoon to inexperience, others have suggested that Jones may have been a bit “too protected” by the conservative play calling strategy of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Here is where House’s expertise may be exactly what Mac ordered.
House began his career as a Major League Baseball pitcher, where he pitched eight seasons from 1971-1978 for the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, and Seattle Mariners. Following a brief stint as a pitching coach, House turned his attention to training. He became the co-founder (along with former Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Adam Dedeaux) of 3DQB; a training institute designed to inform, instruct and inspire quarterbacks to maximize both physical and mental potential for in-game competition. During his time with 3DQB, House has become a highly recognized arm specialist, coaching not only some of baseball’s most prominent pitchers, but also an impressive collection of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, including Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Alex Smith … and, most notably, former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Could House’s magic create a second lightning strike among New England quarterbacks?
Despite the questions surrounding Jones’ arm, House believes Jones has great potential for becoming a stronger passer. It is a sentiment which he shared with NBC Sports Boston in January. Though he described Jones as an “efficient, accurate” passer, House sounded confident that his training could provide the young quarterback with greater velocity, arm speed and distance.
“From what I know about dealing with quarterbacks and pitchers, when they show up, very few of them have maxed out their genetic capacity to throw,” House said.
“I don’t know the farthest that Mac has ever thrown a football, but I guarantee you we can train him to do it,” House said. “We can repattern and retrain his delivery to handle consistent 60-yard throws if necessary…I could look Coach Belichick in the face and say, ‘If you need him to throw five 60-yarders this game, he can do it for you.”
In what should be a comforting thought for the Patriots and their fans, no one seems to realize the amount of work required to improve more than Jones. Throughout the Patriots offseason program, his teammates have routinely praised his work ethic, describing him as being “on a mission.” His work with House has apparently sharpened his focus on arm-care maintenance, as well as full-body fundamentals that will help him gain additional velocity on his throws.
However, Jones’ desire to maintain his poise and his drive to constantly improve continue to make him the ideal steward of New England’s timing-based passing game, predicated on vertical routes and completions from quick, accurate throws. His performance in 2021 provided palpable hope of a bright future for New England at the quarterback position.
Therefore, and contrary to some popular belief, New England can reasonably be optimistic about the potential of their starting quarterback. While he may never rocket the ball the length of the field, Jones possesses enough of the intangibles to make him a formidable force among a talented group of quarterbacks in the AFC. From his offseason approach to 2022, thus far, he appears focused on improving in his game in all ways, and at all costs.
As for Jones and the Patriots, each side is hoping that working with House may have been the beginning of a ‘beautiful friendship’ which leads to great success … as time goes by.