Patriots Laugh Off Cowboys Coach’s Claim They’re ‘Interrogating’ 3rd-String QB

Will Grier, Patriots 3rd-string quarterback

Getty Will Grier, Patriots 3rd-string quarterback

You know we are moving deeper into the NFL season when we start getting tales of espionage and intrigue. It’s Week 4, it’s Patriots vs. Cowboys, and apparently, there are spies among us.

That was the suggestion this week from Dallas offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who wondered if there was not come gamesmanship afoot when the Patriots signed backup quarterback Will Grier on Friday. Grier had been on the Bengals’ practice squad, but before that, he had been with the Cowboys for two seasons, and was only let go by Dallas in August when the Cowboys acquired quarterback Trey Lance from San Francisco.

Schottenheimer said Grier’s knowledge of the Cowboys offense made him a suspicious pickup by New England.

“We know Will knows where a lot of the bones are buried. … I’m sure (Grier) is definitely being interrogated,” Schottenheimer said.

Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien of the Patriots had a laugh at that notion on Tuesday.

“Interrogating!” O’Brien said. “Schotty is a good guy. I’ve known Schotty for a long time. I think that’s the way it is every week in this league, every year in this league. There’s gonna be guys that come into your organization off teams that you’re about to play. It goes both ways, it’s always going to happen.”

Will Grier Was Excellent in Preseason

O’Brien is probably right—after all, the Patriots signed Grier to the 53-man roster, not to the practice squad, an indication that perhaps the team is considering using him long-term. He is currently No. 3 on the New England QB depth chart, but the team’s uneasiness with current backup Bailey Zappe, who was waived on 53-man cut-down day and subsequently re-signed to the practice squad before being elevated, has been well-chronicled.

Grier, a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2019, was stellar in the preseason, topping the NFL’s August leaderboard with 640 yards passing on 84 attempts.

O’Brien explained that the gamesmanship of signing players who know opponents’ systems is not all that important.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to study film. Everybody’s got to be on the same page with what we’re doing,” O’Brien said. “I’ve never thought in my years in the league that any of that was a real factor in a win or a loss. It comes down to the players on the field and the coaches putting the players in the right positions to make plays. That’s what we’re trying to do.

“I don’t think we’re trying to pull a light over anybody and say, ‘Tell me what you did on July 20 of 2023.’ We’re not doing that. We’re not interrogating anybody. We’re just trying to put together the best game plan we possibly can.”

Cowboys’ Brian Schottenheimer: ‘Always Aware of It’

Still, Schottenheimer insists the Cowboys will be on their guard. Not only do the Patriots have Grier on hand, they also have running back Ezekiel Elliott, whom the Patriots signed in August. The Cowboys cut ties with Elliott in March.

“We’re always aware of it,” Schottenheimer told reporters Tuesday of the Patriots leaning on Elliott and Grier for insight. “Those are things we monitor every week. But we know Will knows where a lot of the bones are buried. Zeke does as well. So those are things you talk about and you think, ‘OK, let’s adjust this.’ We certainly have more than one hand signal for most of our core concepts.

“You can use it to your advantage because they think they know what’s coming and they hear something and they think, ‘It’s this’ and we’re smart enough to adjust those things.”

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