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NFL insider suggests New England Patriots don’t see a large talent gap between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe

This isn’t breaking news, but the New England Patriots had several issues on offense in 2022. Some may point to Mac Jones and suggest the 2021 runner-up to win Rookie of the Year hit a sophomore slump. While others would suggest it was the odd fit with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge being tasked with coordinating the offense.

Well, if it’s the latter, the Patriots feel they’ve already solved this problem by hiring Bill O’Brien to call plays and operate as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2023.

But what if the Patriots feel the issue was more internal than a simple coordinator and play-caller change?

The question of whether Jones can be the long-term replacement to Tom Brady is a fascinating talking point, and it’s one Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer recently tapped into during an appearance on 98.5’s The Sports Hub’s “Zolak and Bertrand” radio show.

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Bill Belichick reportedly soured on Mac Jones in 2022

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

After throwing 22 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions, leading the Patriots to 10 wins and a Wild Card appearance, the natural expectation was that Jones would take another step forward in his second year removed from Alabama. Yet, as we now know, that’s not what happened at all.

Instead, the Patriots went from having the sixth-highest-scoring offense to one that ranked 17th in a rollercoaster season that led to New England’s second losing season in the past 22 years.

Jones was tasked with plenty of challenges in 2022, and like many others, he didn’t always handle them well. In fact, NFL insider Albert Breer doesn’t think coach Bill Belichick appreciated how his young QB responded to adversity.

“I don’t think Bill appreciated the way that Mac handled some of the stuff last year. There’s a way that I think Bill thinks a franchise quarterback should conduct himself. And for the most part, (Tom) Brady did conduct himself that way. I think there were certain things in the way that Mac handled his second year as a pro that Bill didn’t appreciate.”

NFL insider Albert Breer offers his take on Mac Jones and the New England Patriots

Sure, it’s fairly standard for a coach and player to have minor disagreements at various stages of the season. It’s nothing we didn’t see from Brady over the years. Yet, could these incidents lead to an eventual trade out of town for Jones?

The Patriots did witness Bailey Zappe quickly surpass expectations as a fourth-round rookie when he stepped in to make two starts in 2022. These brief appearances, which sparked a scoring outburst of 29 and 38 points, the two highest scoring totals of New England’s entire season, even led some to wonder if the former Western Kentucky QB would soon overtake the former Alabama star under center.

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While the Patriots inevitably turned back to Jones once he healed from his high-ankle sprain, Breer also believes there’s at least a chance New England would entertain trade offers for their former first-round pick. With the Las Vegas Raiders still looking to identify their new franchise signal-caller after releasing Derek Carr, could a Josh McDaniels reunion be in the works this offseason?

From New England’s perspective, they may view Las Vegas’ potential interest as an opportunity to get some value for a player who they feel isn’t that much better than his backup.

“Internally, I don’t know if they see this massive gap between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. I’m not saying they think Bailey’s as good as Mac, but there was some element of Bailey doing what he was coached to do last year that I think gave Bailey the edge to some degree for a little while there. So I think it’ll be interesting to see what would happen if a real offer came along. I don’t think a real offer is going to come along, but it’d be interesting to see what would happen if a real offer did come along.”

Breer cautions against the idea of the Raiders being willing to part with their seventh overall pick for the former 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft or that a deal will get consummated at all, but a Mac Jones trade could be an item to keep tabs on this offseason.

Related: NFL QB Rankings: Does Mac Jones crack the top 20?