Over the past two weeks, nobody knew what the Patriots were going to do at the quarterback position. After throwing a terrible interception during Week 10’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Patriots head coach benched Mac Jones for the game’s final drive, entrusting Bailey Zappe to try and win the game. Zappe responded by throwing a terrible interception of his own, and Bill Belichick would not name a starting quarterback following the loss.
Over the past two weeks, fans, reporters, and the players themselves have been trying to figure out who will start in Week 12’s matchup against the lowly New York Giants. While the team has yet to give an official announcement, Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald reports that Mac Jones will make the start, although he could be on a short leash. The question now becomes whether or not this is the right choice for the franchise.
Should the Patriots Start Mac Jones Over Bailey Zappe?
No Good Options
Let’s start by stating the obvious: the Patriots do not have a good choice here. Jones and Zappe are not starting-caliber quarterbacks and the fact that these two are New England’s best options is a big reason that the team is currently 2-8. After a promising rookie season, Jones has completely imploded over the last two years. The subpar supporting cast and annual shift in play callers certainly haven’t helped anything, but the fact of the matter is that Jones is routinely missing throws that you’d expect a high school quarterback to make. He has no touch on his passes, falls apart under pressure, and is battling Kenny Pickett for the title of worst starting quarterback in the game.
With all that being said, Mac Jones is still better than Bailey Zappe. Zappe, a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, first made a name for himself while filling in for an injured Jones as a rookie. Appearing in four games while making two starts, the Western Kentucky product completed 70.7% of his passes for 781 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions as a rookie. From a film perspective, he rarely did anything out of structure, but he proved to be a competent pitching machine, and had he continued to play like that, he’d probably be starting in Week 12.
Unfortunately, just like Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe took a major step back this year. The quarterback had a terrible offseason and failed to make the initial 53-man roster. The only reason he’s still on the Patriots is because every other team in the league decided he wasn’t worth a roster spot. During his limited playing time, Zappe has only proved the doubters right. The quarterback has appeared in three games in 2022, completing a paltry 40% of his passes for 104 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He consistently missed open players during his two garbage time appearances and threw a game-losing interception into triple coverage during Week 10’s loss. Mac Jones should be a backup, but Bailey Zappe might not even be in the NFL next year.
Losing the Locker Room
Based purely on talent, Mac Jones is a marginally better option than Bailey Zappe. However, that minor difference in ability might not be enough to cancel out the frustration in the locker room. At 2-8, the Patriots are among the worst teams in the league, and most of their issues can be traced back to the quarterback position. Despite losing Christian Gonzalez and Matt Judon to injuries, the defense has kept this team in most of their games. If this team even had a league-average offense, they’d probably be in the hunt for a Wild Card spot.
By sticking with Jones, the Patriots are effectively doing the same thing over and over again and hoping that something changes. At this point in the season, everyone knows that Jones isn’t the answer, and the team clearly cannot win with him under center. Maybe Mac Jones can beat an equally terrible Giants team starting an undrafted free agent, but there has to be a decent percentage of the locker room hoping to see Bailey Zappe out there at some point.
Main Photo: Bob DeChiara – USA Today Sports