Mac Jones vs. Bailey Zappe: Patriots QB situation even more clouded after blowout loss to Bears

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Turns out “Zappe Hour” ends with a gnarly hangover. 

In the moment, folks were sipping guzzling the Kool-Aid the rookie quarterback was serving and it looked like New England was on the verge of a full-blown changing of the guard under center as they hosted the Chicago Bears on Monday night. After Mac Jones had consecutive three-and-outs on his opening two drives and tossed a careless interception on the third possession of the evening, Gillette Stadium was sent squawking for Bailey Zappe. And Bill Belichick obliged. 

After those uninspiring series, Belichick turned to Zappe and initially looked like a maneuver that was going to not only put the Patriots on a track to beat the Bears but catapult the youngster up the depth chart on a more permanent basis. Zappe needed just seven plays to travel 105 yards and set up two touchdowns for New England on back-to-back possessions that took them from trailing 10-0 to suddenly being up by four. 

It’s all Zappening, right? Nope. Zappe’s spark fizzled and the Patriots began to sink deep into an abyss that was the 33-14 final at the hands of Chicago to fall to 3-4 on the season. Following those scores, Zappe turned the ball over three times (two interceptions and a fumble), and the other two offensive possessions were three-and-outs. Over that same stretch, Chicago went on a 23-0 run. 

At this juncture, New England’s situation under center is more clouded than ever. And it’s no longer because they have what was once thought to be an embarrassment of riches where they have multiple quarterbacks playing well and competing for the job. Now, we’re left with the question that asks if either one of them can lead the franchise going forward or if they’ll be back to the drawing board this spring. 

To make matters even foggier, the usage for both Jones and Zappe on Monday was perplexing, to say the least. 

Pregame, there was murmuring that Belichick was planning to use both quarterbacks. Jones ended up starting and after the interception, he was sent to the bench for Zappe on the following possession. To the naked eye, that would be your prototypical benching, but Belichick said postgame that his decision to take Jones out at that point in the game was not related to the pick nor the quarterback’s injured ankle. 

“I told the quarterbacks that we were going to play both of them, and that’s what we did.,” Belichick said. “That’s not what it was, but you can write whatever you want to write. That’s not what it was.” 

That said, Belichick did say that Jones’ ankle injury “was a factor” in the initial plan to roll out both quarterbacks for this game. 

“I knew what the plan was, and the timing is the timing, but we were on the same page, and there’s no hard feelings or anything,” Jones said. “I wish I played better while I was in there, but hopefully I’ll have a chance to do that in practice and kind of earn that back and then apply it in the game.”

While Jones may have been in the loop, various players seemed to be left in the dark on what exactly the plan was under center.

When asked if he knew both quarterbacks were going to play Monday, Zappe said: “I prepare like I have every other week, and if that decision was made for me to go in, then I was going to go out there and do the best for my team.” 

He added that he found out that Jones was going to start “about the same time y’all did.”

“You take mental reps whenever you’re not in,” Zappe said when asked if he felt like he was prepared for this dual-quarterback plan throughout the week of practice. “That’s another way that you can prepare throughout the week. It’s not all physical. So whenever you’re not in standing behind the quarterbacks taking mental reps, that’s another way you can do it throughout the week.”

Belichick declined to name a starter immediately after the game for their pivotal Week 8 matchup against the Jets. So while that debate will seemingly wage on for a bit longer, the more concerning question that sprouted up on Monday is if they even have a starter on the roster at all. And this dueling pianos plan of attack on Monday night did the opposite of bringing clarity to the situation.

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