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New England Patriots Quarterback Battle: Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe?

Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe are at the center of the first real Patriots quarterback controversy in over twenty years.
Mac Jones Bailey Zappe

The New England Patriots quarterback situation is suddenly a very thorny one following a 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. After Mac Jones threw an interception in the first half, overnight sensation Bailey Zappe took over and led two touchdown drives for the Patriots. But, quickly, his magic wore off, and New England failed to score another point during the game. 

While New England was already in the midst of a jocular “QB competition,” their competition became a full-on controversy after their loss to the Bears. So, how should Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, and the organization handle the New England Patriots quarterback situation?

READ MORE: Should the Patriots Trade Kendrick Bourne?

Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe? Unraveling the New England Patriots Quarterback Situation

Monday night marked the first game back for Mac Jones since his injury against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3. In three drives with the offense, Jones threw for only 13 yards on 3/6 passing with an interception. While Belichick claimed that the plan was for Jones to play three series on offense, it is hard to not look at Jones’ situation as a benching. 

With Jones on the bench, Zappe entered the game and led two scoring drives in a row. But the wheels fell off for Zappe shortly after, throwing two interceptions and fumbling the ball on a handoff. Patriots fans had yet to see the lowest of lows out of Zappe, and his turnover-laden 185-yard performance was their first look. What’s more, the situation was only worsened by “ZA-PPE” chats from the New England crowd, booing Jones and leaving the game before the final whistle sounded, all on wall-to-wall coverage captured by ESPN’s primetime broadcast. That kind of public blunder by the Patriots coaching staff will undoubtedly shape the future of both Zappe’s and Jones’ confidence in the short term.

The fallout? Who knows? 

What Should The Patriots Do? 

With their season potentially hanging in the balance during the next few weeks, the Patriots cannot waste time figuring out what to do. And their only option is that they continue to start Mac Jones and keep him in games. If New England wants to get the most out of their former first-round quarterback, sitting him or keeping him on a short leash can no longer be an option. 

In the past, the Patriots have bent over backward to coddle underperforming high draft picks, as evidenced by continuing to play Isaiah Wynn, Joejuan Williams, and the recently traded N’Keal Harry. Considering Jones was the highest draft pick New England has had since 2008 (Jerod Mayo) and that he plays an immeasurably more important position, relegating him to the bench would be career-altering. Fresh off of a Pro Bowl year for Jones and throwing for the fifth-most passing yards for a rookie in NFL history, Jones signaled to the league that he could cut his teeth with the best. 

If the Patriots want to show any consistency in how they deal with struggling young players, they must play Jones. Not only for his sake but for the sake of the team. Plain and simple.

Can New England Rebound?

Though the Patriots are an organization built on resiliency and fundamentals, the loss to the Bears may be an indication that the team is falling apart at the seams. Last season, the Patriots, through seven games, were 3-4, as they are today, but the road ahead looks far darker today than it did in 2021.

In 2021, the Patriots were a brand new team. They had a rookie quarterback and a band of new free-agent signings. There were logical growing pains. Today, the Patriots have a rookie quarterback nipping at the heels of their starter, free agents who continue to underperform, and are without a true offensive-minded coordinator on offense. No, the team is not doomed. But there are fewer things to build on or take solace in after a shellacking by an inferior opponent. 

Perhaps, true to Patriots form, this adversity inside the locker room galvanizes the team. But for that to happen, the Patriots need to win and win with conviction. And the first step for the Patriots is to trust Mac Jones as their starting quarterback. Jones led the Patriots from a 3-4 record to the playoffs in 2021. Who is to say he cannot do it again? 


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