However, Belichick left things quite open-ended during a Tuesday, November 16 press conference. Belichick previously benched Jones in favor of Zappe during a 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10.
“We have a lot of things to work on this week as a team. We’ll work through those. That is what we are going to do this week,” Belichick said.
Belichick’s answer to a question about tanking also shed some light on who might play at quarterback next. The Patriots won’t be intentionally racking up losses, Belichick claims, just to land prized USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
“I would play players that deserve to play, let’s put it that way,” Belichick said. “If they deserve to play, I’ll play them. I’m not gonna play somebody that I don’t think deserves to play, or that, will hurt the team, or isn’t ready to play.”
With that said, which quarterback is playing better — or worse — remains an open debate. Zappe came into the last game with a chance to win, and couldn’t deliver a comeback victory with just 3-7 passing for 25 yards and an interception. Jones’ play remained subpar amid 15-20 passing for 170 yards and an interception.
It marked the second benching of Jones this year for Zappe, but the last time occurred during a 38-3 blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Belichick said that was to avoid injury for Jones.
Either way, Jones hasn’t inspired in year three with 2,031 yards passing for 10 touchdowns and 10 picks. Jones already regressed in year two with 2,997 yards for 14 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions.
Bailey Zappe Not the Only Option
Jones’ struggles don’t cement that Zappe will take the field in Week 12 against the New York Giants on November 26.
Zappe hasn’t inspired confidence this year, either, and that goes back to the preseason. His struggles in August led to his release, but the Patriots welcomed him back to the practice squad.
New England also brought in Matt Corral at that time as another backup option, but he left the team for personal reasons. The Patriots then signed Will Grier from the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad as another potential backup.
Grier potentially could land the starting job for the Patriots’ next game. Another possibility includes fan-favorite rookie Malik Cunningham, who starred at quarterback with Louisville in college.
Zappe became a fan favorite as a rookie last year when he came in for Jones. The former Western Kentucky standout went 2-0 and threw for 781 yards and five touchdowns versus three interceptions in four game appearances overall.
His rise stirred a quarterback controversy in 2022, and it spilled into the offseason. Zappe said during a camp in the spring that he will be ready for whatever comes.
More recently, Zappe said “100%” that he could take over the Patriots’ starting job after the loss to the Colts. However, that’s amid his completion percentage dropping form 70% last year to 40% this year.
Mac Jones Injury an Unknown
Jones had an X-ray after the loss to the Colts in Germany, but he downplayed it afterward.
“Yeah, I’m OK. Got a little bruise,” Jones told reporters.
Whether or not that impacts Jones going forward remains to be seen. He has an extra week to rest up with the bye week, but the injury reports for Week 12 will indicate if Jones sustained an injury that lasted past the week off.