Bill Belichick could flip the script on the NFL universe this week.
The New England Patriots will almost certainly be without QB Mac Jones when they travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers in Week 4. Results of his MRI revealed a “pretty severe” high-ankle sprain, per NFL.com’s Mike Giardi. He may need surgery to repair it.
Most are expecting the Patriots to turn to veteran backup Brian Hoyer as the starter until Jones is ready to return.
However, the Boston Globe’s Tara Sullivan suggests Belichick might decide to take a look at rookie Bailey Zappe in the role while Jones heals.
Would Bill Belichick Start Bailey Zappe Over Brian Hoyer?
Every member of the Patriots locker room who has been asked publicly for their thoughts on Hoyer’s seemingly imminent appointment as the replacement starter has shown nothing but support.
Sullivan offered a different perspective.
“Good for his teammates for saying the right things, but remember, two years ago, when called on to step in for then-starter Cam Newton, who was waylaid by COVID, Hoyer struggled so much the team was forced to use Jarrett Stidham, who never inspired confidence,” Sullivan wrote. “If Jones is facing a long-term break, maybe Belichick goes straight to rookie Bailey Zappe, and this season suddenly turns into something far different than anticipated.”
Sullivan is referencing Hoyer’s brief stint as a starter during a primetime, Week 4 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020. Newton had gotten the Patriots off to a 2-1 start (they came up one yard short of a 3-0 start when Cam was stopped at the goal line on what would’ve been a game-winning QB sneak).
Unfortunately, Newton caught COVID ahead of the game. He missed the contest and was never the same. Hoyer was given the first shot in that game against the Chiefs, but he was benched at halftime.
In the first half, Hoyer completed 15 of 24 passes for 130 yards, an interception, and made one of the more egregious QB decisions you’ll ever see. With time running down in the first half, the Patriots in field-goal range, and trailing 6-3 in a surprising defensive struggle against the high-powered Chiefs, Hoyer inexplicably took a sack. He thought he had a timeout but was mistaken and time ran out in the half. He also fumbled the football earlier in the half, and the Chiefs recovered it. The misstep at the end of the first half was the most damaging. The Chiefs seized momentum and won the game 26-10. The loss changed the trajectory of the Patriots’ 2020 season. Here is a look at the play.
The Patriots turned to Jarrett Stidham in the second half, and he was only marginally better. Stidham completed five of 13 passes for 60 yards, a TD–to N’Keal Harry–and he threw two interceptions.
Could a QB Controversy Be On Deck in New England?
Hoyer will turn 37 next month and is two years older than the last time he played meaningful snaps. Should we expect an improved or even worse performance? This Patriots team has far better weapons than the one Newton commanded so that works in Hoyer’s favor–or maybe Zappe’s.
Zappe showed flashes during the preseason. In three contests, Zappe completed five passes of 20+ yards, threw one TD, but was picked off three times.
He has real NFL QB arm strength, which is something Jones may not possess. Zappe is also a player who put up crazy numbers (5,953 passing yards, 62 TDs, and 11 interceptions for Western Kentucky in 2021)–albeit against lesser competition than the SEC freaks Jones faced–but without the wealth of athletes as weapons and protectors on the offensive line.
What if Zappe does get the call, and he plays well? What if Hoyer is the guy, and he plays well?
Jones hasn’t played well this season. He threw three picks and no TD passes in Sunday’s loss and has five picks this season. His decision-making has been rough, and you could make the argument it cost the Patriots the game on Sunday.
Would the Patriots have a full-on quarterback controversy if Hoyer or Jones were to step in and help to guide the team on a roll? The last time they had one of those, Tom Brady was wrestling the team’s reins away from Drew Bledsoe, and that turned out pretty well for the Patriots.