The “who does the quarterback throw the ball to on passing plays” is a question that has been asked for years. The answer to this question depends on many factors, including what team you are playing and who the coach thinks would be best suited for the position.

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Mac Jones, a rookie quarterback for the New England Patriots, is tearing up the NFL. So far, the No. 15 overall selection has outperformed all of his Class of 2021 peers. He also has a 6-4 record as a starter in his first season. While some may credit his success to his time as the starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide, one NFL expert believes it has more to do with his time as a backup for the legendary collegiate team.

At Alabama, Mac Jones sat behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa.

(L-R) Quarterback Mac Jones of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 22, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots celebrates the touchdown by Rhamondre Stevenson #38 against the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

(L-R) Quarterback Mac Jones of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 22, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots celebrates the touchdown by Rhamondre Stevenson #38 against the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (L-R) Mac Jones at Alabama in 2017, Mac Jones with the New England Patriots in 2021 | Images courtesy of Michael Chang/Getty Images and Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.

In 2017, Mac Jones, a quarterback from the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, visited the University of Alabama campus. Tua Tagovailoa, another freshman, accompanied him. On the Crimson Tide depth chart, both of these quarterbacks were behind starter Jalen Hurts.

Jones sat out his first year on college. Throughout the season, his fellow freshmen received more playing time. Tagovailoa relieved Hurts during halftime of the National Championship game, allowing Nick Saban’s team to win the championship.

Tagovailoa and Hurts shared time the next season, with the true sophomore finally taking over as starter and Jones relegated to third-string.

Hurts left the next season, and Jones took over when Tagovailoa’s season was cut short due to injury. In 2020, he was named the undisputed starter and led the Crimson Tide to their first National Championship.

Now that Jones is a rising NFL star, one NFL observer believes it was his experience as a third-string quarterback, heading the Alabama scout squad, that aided the New England quarterback in becoming the instant success he is.

Jones’ ability to lead the Alabama scout team, according to Dan Orlovsky, is a key to his success.

Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL quarterback and current ESPN commentator, visited the Dan Patrick Show to talk about a variety of football subjects.

Orlovsky, who sometimes calls college football games, finally moved the topic to Mac Jones, and he provided an under-the-radar explanation for Jones’ development as a solid quarterback. It has to do with his tenure as a backup quarterback at Alabama:

I remember working the Alabama-Arkansas game and sitting down with individuals in the area and asking them about Mac Jones, and I’ll never forget [then-Alabama OC] Steve Sarkisian… he was telling me how much better Mac was since he was the scout squad quarterback against the Alabama defense… And that made me think: when you play scout team against the starters, you grow so much better because you have to play so quickly… You learn a lot about what you can and can’t accomplish, as well as how to utilize these tools and your eyes. What you do with your brain… At the end of the day, the quarterback position has always been defined by two factors: ability to think and ability to throw. And if you continuously perform those two things at a very high level, you’ll be really, really, really excellent.

Mac Jones, according to Dan Orlovsky

Despite this, Orlovsky said that Jones was passed over in the draft for a very precise reason. “We’re in an age when we’ve fallen in love with physical traits,” the former UConn Husky said, adding that everyone is waiting for the next athletic wonder like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, or Patrick Mahomes.  

Jones’ tenure as a scout team signal-caller, on the other hand, shaped his mind and arm in a manner that makes him a classic pocket-passing quarterback. And New England is benefiting from it.

Jones has been so remarkable, Orlovsky that he would choose him far higher in the 2021 selection if it were conducted today.

But would he pick him first overall?

In a 2021 redraft, Orlovsky thinks he’d take the New England Patriots rookie considerably higher.

Most games with a passer rating of 100 or above among first-round quarterbacks in the 2021 Draft:

Trevor Lawrence 0 Zach Wilson 0 Trey Lance 0 Justin Fields 0 Mac Jones 5

*Must try at least 20 passes

November 15, 2021 — NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS)

Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars), Zach Wilson (New York Jets), Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers), Justin Fields (Chicago Bears), and Mac Jones (Jacksonville Jaguars) (No. 15, New England Patriots).

All five have started games thus far. They’ve all had different levels of success, but Jones has been the most successful in terms of victories and statistics.

Dan Patrick asked Dan Orlovsky where he would choose Jones in respect to these other rookie signal-callers if the 2021 draft were conducted today after outlining the value of playing scout team quarterback at Alabama.

“Would you be the first quarterback off the board if I redrafted?” Patrick had enquired.

Orlovsky promptly answered, “Trevor Lawrence.”

“Is this the second quarterback to be taken off the board?” Patrick enquired further.

I believe we’re having a discussion. I really believe that. Now I’d want to be objective. We’re aware of Zach Wilson’s circumstances [with the New York Jets]. I believe we’re having a discussion because Mac has everything you need to be a terrific quarterback. Zach hasn’t done anything like that yet. To demonstrate this, Mac has now been added to the list of supported platforms. Zach hasn’t done so. … Zach is still capable of doing things that Mac Jones is unable to. He is physically capable of doing things that Mac Jones is unable to.

On redrafting Mac Jones, Dan Orlovsky

While time will tell whether Wilson or Lawrence can outperform Jones based on their physical abilities, Mac Jones of the Patriots is the greatest quarterback in the Class of 2021 right now.

Pro Football Reference provided all stats.

RELATED: ESPN Analyst Dan Orlovsky is on a Roll Predicting Which NFL Coaches Will Be Fired Next, and It’s Not Good News for One AFC Coach

The “quarterback rankings” is a question that has been asked for decades. The “quarterback position has always been, can you think and can you throw?”

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