Did Mac Jones earn the New England Patriots’ respect in his NFL debut?

Bill Belichick doesn’t say much.

Quite frankly, he doesn’t usually need to. When you have six Super Bowl titles on your résumé, you own the best playoff winning percentage of all time and you’re a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, your reputation speaks for itself.

Belichick generally does a lot more doing than talking, and the action-oriented head coach spoke volumes about his team’s future plans when he released quarterback Cam Newton just ahead of the regular season.

Newton was vying for the Patriots’ starting job throughout the preseason, and he put up commendable numbers in the chances he got. But his running mate, Mac Jones, ultimately had the final say in the contest, soaring into Week 1 as New England’s lead general.

Then the Pats succumbed in their first face-off, dropping a hard-fought 17-16 affair against the Dolphins.

That was in large part due to factors outside of Jones’ control. The former Alabama national champion was commendable in his NFL debut, going 29-for-39 for 281 yards and one TD. Ultimately, the team’s mental mistakes — including eight penalties and two turnovers — were its downfall.

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Even after Sunday’s disappointment, many in the football world, including Shannon Sharpe, maintain their faith in New England’s QB1 and viewed Game 1 as a glimpse of potential success to come.

“The moment didn’t seem too big for my rookie QB starting his first game in the NFL,” Sharpe said of Jones’ performance. “The way he’s protecting the ball, driving the ball, climbing up in the pocket, going through his progressions, he looked good. He played really, really, really well.”

As for Belichick, his evaluation of Jones’ day was simple: “I thought Mac competed.”

That might not seem like much, but “competitor” wholly epitomizes Belichick’s ideal starting QB — that and “winner.” After the Pats began the season in the “L” column, even Belichick directed the blame away from his signal-caller.

“Again, we just have to do a better job of everything,” Belichick said postgame. “Too many penalties, too many balls out, not good enough on some of the little things, little fundamentals — they’re not little, they’re big — but the fundamentals of overall execution. Some things we’re close on, but again, just not quite good enough.”

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But perhaps unsurprisingly, others believe that if another QB had been handed the starting keys, the Patriots would’ve walked away victorious.

“If Cam had started yesterday, he wins the game,” Skip Bayless said on “Undisputed.” “He’s just better. I’m talking about making a play or two that wins the game.

“The kid did about as well as you could expect him to do, but Cam Newton, the former MVP, the player who lifted an entire franchise to the Super Bowl, he’s only 32. He’s going to make a couple plays, he would get it in the end zone, and they would pull it out somehow.”

It’s safe to say the Cam vs. Mac debate continues, even though Cam is no longer a member of the team. If Mac Jones fails to launch, he’ll have the shadow of that battle hanging over him like rainclouds.

But so far, storms have been absent from Jones’ forecast. If he can begin guiding his team to wins, things will turn sunny in a heartbeat.

Check out the full Undisputed debate below:

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