Mac Jones entered his sophomore season as the unquestioned New England Patriots franchise quarterback. At least, this narrative was being thrown around after a tremendous rookie campaign from the former Alabama standout.
Jones looked very much the part of a long-term replacement for Tom Brady en route to leading New England to a surprise playoff appearance. Despite some rumblings about struggles picking up an enhanced Patriots offensive playbook during training camp, there was even some MVP talk surrounding the youngster.
Boy, how things can go south in the NFL in less than two months. Jones suffered a high-ankle sprain in New England’s Week 3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. At that point, he led the league in interceptions with five and looked to be completely out of his element with Matt Patricia calling the shots on offense after replacing the respected Josh McDaniels.
It seems that drama is rising behind the scenes between Jones and the Patriots’ brass now that rookie fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe is doing his thing under center.
“There’s chatter that Jones isn’t thrilled with the situation there, starting with Belichick’s failure/refusal to replace skilled and experienced offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with another skilled and experience designer and caller of plays.
Instead, Joe Judge (a former special-teams coach before becoming head coach of the Giants) is in charge of the quarterbacks, and Matt Patricia (a defensive coordinator before becoming head coach of the Lions) is in charge of the offense. There’s a belief that Jones isn’t thrilled with that arrangement.”Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio on Mac Jones, New England Patriots dynamic
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made waves ahead of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns by refusing to anoint Jones their starting quarterback once he’s able to return from injury.
This set the stage of Zappe to put up an incredible performance in a blowout win over the Cleveland Browns, setting the stage for New England’s second consecutive victory with the young quarterback under center. Even ahead of said game, things were starting to brew behind the scenes in Foxborough.
“Belichick’s failure to publicly dismiss any suggestion that Zappe could supplant Jones meshes with some of the uncharacteristic rumblings surrounding the relationship between Jones and the Patriots,” Florio noted.
Belichick is one to play things close to the vest with the media. He never lets us in on what’s happening internally with the Patriots. That’s been the future Hall of Fame head coach’s MO over nearly the past quarter century. But something certainly seems to be up here.
Related: New England Patriots QB competition
New England Patriots could prefer Bailey Zappe to Mac Jones
The Patriots’ official website even ran a story following their 38-15 win over the Browns indicating that “Bailey Zappe is starting to make things interesting in New England.” The tight-lipped Belichick simply repeated the line that Jones wasn’t ready to go physically when asked about the new-found QB competition in his day-after press conference on Monday.
“We’ll see how that process is. Mac still wasn’t able to play. So we’ll continue to evaluate him and see how he’s doing physically,” Belichick on whether Jones would take back his starting job.
What we do know is that it’s been a tale of two different quarterbacks through the first six weeks of the season with the lesser-known individual outplaying his counterpart big time.
- Bailey Zappe stats (2022): 72.9% completion, 596 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 111.4 QB rating
- Mac Jones stats (2022): 66% completion, 786 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT, 76.2 QB rating
Outside of these basic stats, New England is averaging 33.5 points in Zappe’s two starts while outscoring its opponents by 42 combined points. In Jones’ three starts to open the season, the Pats averaged 16.7 points and were outscored by a combined three touchdowns.
This has led some within the Patriots power elite to come to the conclusion that Zappe might actually be the better option than Jones, both short-term and long-term. It has also apparently created a rift between Jones and the Pats’ brass.
“I think things did get a little sideways really over the last couple of months,” Albert Breer report on Mac Jones situation.
With Mac Jones nearing a return to action and potentially cleared to play for Week 7 against the Chicago Bears, things could be coming to a head here soon.