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New Patriots OC Alex Van Pelt on Mac Jones, QB situation: 'Right now, everything is on the table'

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has been given a new responsibility by his new employer: call plays.

It shouldn't sound daunting to an OC, but after spending the last four seasons working under Kevin Stefanski -- the play-calling head coach in Cleveland -- Van Pelt will have to get acclimated to dialing it up from the sideline.

But before he can design a play-calling system, he'll need to resolve New England's quarterback situation. Mac Jones didn't do his future any favors in 2023, playing poorly enough to be benched a handful of times and tossing the Patriots' outlook under center into the uninviting waters of Lake Uncertainty. There's no telling who will be New England's starter in 2024, leaving the Patriots with a top priority they could address as soon as next month, when free agency begins.

"Really right now, everything is on the table," Van Pelt said when asked if he could envision Jones starting in 2024. "As we go through this process, we really this last couple weeks, 10 days, have just been diving into who we are, trying to evaluate our guys. A lot of people in this situation, on staffs that have been here, they're doing free agency. Well, we're doing our guys as they are free agents. We're trying to understand who we have here, as well as looking at other players out there. 

"But right now, everything is on the table and we're just still working through that process. When then time comes, I'm sure it'll be a collaborative effort and we'll make the right decisions."

Van Pelt revealed he'd talked to Jones "a little bit" since joining new coach Jerod Mayo's staff in New England, but that was about as far as he'd go concerning Jones. As he sees it, the Patriots have work to complete with this roster, including at quarterback.

"There's definitely some pieces of the puzzle that aren't quite put in place yet, and that's our job," Van Pelt said. "So at the end of the day, once we get everything established, see who we are, who we have available to us and then we'll put that puzzle together with those pieces we have."

Each of the NFL's 32 puzzles are incomplete at this time of the year. Some, though, are missing more pieces than others.

For Van Pelt, that's not as pertinent as the messaging he's conveyed to his new players: Last year doesn't matter, at least not in how the new staff will view the existing members of the roster.

Such a message seems to contradict the task Van Pelt is in the midst of completing, which is evaluating Jones. A better option could arise and prompt the Patriots, who hold the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 draft, to make a move under center. New England could, however, maintain the status quo, giving Jones another chance.

Essentially, everything is on the table. It's late February. The Patriots aren't playing a game tomorrow, and have time available to methodically adjust as they deem necessary.

"The biggest thing is there's some good pieces in place. I think the best thing for everybody is it's going to be a fresh start for everybody," Van Pelt said. "I've talked to a couple of guys already, coming in with a clean slate, no preconceived expectations, or notions of who these guys are. And then we'll build it from the ground up. But exciting to have the opportunity to do that."

Van Pelt will also have to steel himself for his first season spent calling plays in quite some time. He won't simply take Stefanski's offense with him to New England, and instead will craft it around the strengths of the Patriots' roster, which could look different in a few months.

Still, it will be a relatively new experience for the coordinator, one he's eager to embrace.

"It's definitely different. Obviously, the more responsibility you have for calling the plays," Van Pelt said. "I'm excited about doing it; I've had opportunities to do it in the past at different levels. I got to call a whole season in NFL Europe, which was a blast, kinda cutting my teeth there. And got to learn how to do it. Made a ton of mistakes and nobody cared."

Folks certainly will care if the Patriots trot Jones out and the offense isn't any better. Time will tell on that front, but fortunately for Van Pelt, Mayo and the rest of the Patriots, time is on their side -- for now.

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