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New England Patriots Quarterback Catastrophe: A Season in Crisis

An in-depth look at the Patriots' QB debacle: Analyzing Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe's impact, Belichick's decisions, and the team's future.
Patriots Quarterback

In the NFL, where every decision can tip the scales of a team’s future, the New England Patriots find themselves in a particularly complex situation this season. With a 2-9 record, they’re faced with a question no team wants to be asking this late in the season: Who should be the Patriots quarterback going forward?

The Patriots Quarterback Situation Has Reached a Tipping Point

In 2023, it’s no secret that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. The Patriots have been facing persistent struggles in this vital role. Regardless of who steps in, the results have been consistently underwhelming. The issue reached a peak following Mac Jones’ notably poor performance against the Colts in Germany, leading many to believe that his days in a Patriots uniform were numbered. This has not only cast doubts about his future with the team but also underscored the team’s overarching challenges in finding a reliable leader under center.

During two weeks to prepare for the game against the New York Giants, Bill Belichick made an unexpected move by releasing quarterback Will Grier. This decision raised eyebrows, considering the unimpressive performances from the team’s primary quarterbacks, and the constant questions surrounding the position. At each mention of naming a starter during the press conference, Belichick consistently responded, “Everyone needs to be ready to go.”

Metlife Meltdown

After splitting first-team reps with Bailey Zappe in practice, Belichick decided to give Jones the start. Tight end Hunter Henry revealed after the game that he found out who the starting quarterback would be, “Today. When we went out.” Jones’ performance in the first half was nothing short of distressing – just 89 yards, two interceptions, and a QBR of 7.2. Belichick’s decision to bench him at halftime was a clear indicator of the team’s desperation for change. This was the fifth time in Jones last 22 games he’d been benched, and the fourth of this season.

When Bailey Zappe took over in the second half, there was a brief spark of hope. In his first drive, the team drove down the field and scored a touchdown to tie the game. However, the team continued to face offensive challenges, with the next few drives ending in punts and an interception. He didn’t look like he had any real command of the offense and struggled to get the ball deep. His lone attempt to really push it downfield resulted in an interception. Even in their final drive, which almost tied the game, it wasn’t Zappe’s quarterbacking that stood out. He completed just two passes for nine yards on the drive, one of which was a five-yard gain on fourth and four where he threw the ball short of the first down. A missed tackle with a good move from Juju Smith-Schuster allowed the Patriots to keep the drive alive. He finished the game with a lousy average of 3.9 yards per attempt.

Making a Permanent Change at Quarterback

Despite Zappe’s lackluster performance, there’s a convincing argument to give him a full week of practice and name him the Patriots quarterback. With Jones’s recent performances, testing Zappe in a full game might be a risk worth taking. There has also been multiple reports of Jones “losing the locker room” with his recent play. Former Super Bowl MVP, Julian Edelman, let the world know that he’s onto next season as well. Tweeting, “today, a win = a loss. We’re onto April 25th, 2024.” Even though winning games may not be in the best interest of the organization, neither is putting an inept product onto the field. At this point, a change is necessary; at the very least to give fans a reason to keep watching.

Now, with the team facing a disappointing 2-9 record, the focus must inevitably shift towards the 2024 season. The Patriots losing to a team that was ahead of them in the draft order was exactly what they needed. They’re currently lined up for the second pick in the upcoming draft. A prime spot to draft a top-tier quarterback, or use to get a haul of assets in return. This period is crucial for Belichick and his staff to make strategic decisions. The remaining games this season aren’t just about concluding the year; they’re an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a more competitive team next year. Assessing who the building blocks of the future should be. This transition period, though challenging, is necessary for the Patriots to find their way back to their winning ways.

Main Photo Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports


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