Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe and the Patriots’ rudderless future


A soggy Monday night became one of the darkest in Gillette Stadium’s two-decade history.

There’s reason to question Bill Belichick’s decisions with the offense both Monday night and before that. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

  • Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe and the Patriots' rudderless future

    Peyton Manning hates how Mac Jones was taken out early against Bears

  • Bill Belichick explained why he stayed with Bailey Zappe against Bears and didn’t replace Mac Jones in


Bill Belichick could have passed George Halas to become the second-winningest coach in NFL history with a victory over the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

Instead, Belichick helped deliver a season-changing mortification that ranks among the most absurd nights of his New England tenure.

Where do you begin what has been an abysmal night of football and personnel management at Gillette Stadium? We saw the return of the defensive bogeymen, shredded by Justin Fields (179 passing yards, 82 rushing yards), who looked more like Michael Vick than the Kordell Stewart the sophomore quarterback tended to become. Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, Carmine or whoever holds the offensive playsheet showed all the imagination of a lifetime Christmas movie, perfectly predictable and led by second-rate players. And it was all happening as quarterback Mac Jones, returning from a four-week absence, picked up where he last left off as the lowest-rated in his position, prompting the first chants. of “We want to Zappe” from the frustrated crowd.

After fans got what they apparently wanted – Jones retired from the game after just three offensive streaks – even folk hero Bailey Zappe couldn’t stretch his magic touch, the one that died out in the evening mist with any stubborn thoughts that the Patriots might challenge for a playoff spot in 2022.

It’s hard to do from last place in the AFC East, a place this team seems destined to linger. Both immediate and long term.

The lower Bears pulled away from Foxborough with a 33-14 upset that dropped the Patriots to 3-4, 1-2 at home.

After the game, the night somehow got even worse.

Say what you will about the moment of Belichick’s decision to fire a struggling Jones (who actually ran 11 yards more than he amassed by throwing the ball – 13) after his first interception of the night , but inserting Zappe into the lineup gave the Patriots a fleeting spark that energized the fickle crowd and the quarterback’s contending teammates. Zappe immediately took advantage of a 30-yard strike to Jakobi Meyers that reduced the Patriots’ deficit to one field goal. Later in the second quarter, Zappe found DeVante Parker for a 50-yard gain, setting up a Rhamondre Stevenson touchdown that gave the Patriots their only lead of the night.

Zappe Fever was alive and well as the football ‘experts’ who so vigorously pushed for Mac Jones as ‘the guy’ descended from their ivory towers. Soon, they would empathize with the Zappe crowd to at least come to an agreement regarding the quarterback controversy.

If the Patriots have two quarterbacks, they really don’t have a quarterback.

Despite a quick glimpse of his sphere, Zappe’s magic bubble burst all over the court at Gillette, leaving behind a rambling locker room full of players who were apparently unaware of Belichick’s plan to give both quarterbacks time. against the Bears. Oh, the coach half-heartedly tried to suggest that removing Jones from the game had been in the scheme all along, a factor he apparently didn’t tell anyone but personal publicist Adam Schefter.

Instead, what Belichick achieved was so crippling for his team that he may have put the Patriots back for the last time under his guidance.

If you’re the Krafts, planning the future health of the franchise, how do you watch this performance and not start preparing to call Sean Payton? Even if they convince 70-year-old Bill to leave of his own free will, the prospect of him leaving Patricia and her mule brood in charge must give Bob and Jonathan a huge break. Despite flashes of genius, there’s mounting evidence that the game has passed Bill, leaving behind a group of young nerds to lead the game into the future. It’s a bitter world where the likes of doofus Brandon Staley have more long-term potential than the modern NFL’s most legendary coach, but here we are.

Belichick did his public persona no favors after the game, insisting the two-quarterback plan was the plan from the start. Yet, it also emerged that he didn’t tell anyone about the matter outside of the two quarterbacks. And Schetter.

Wasn’t there a likelihood that Jones would struggle to get out of the gate after a month on the sidelines? Yet despite that, Belichick sent the former first-round pick into the fire in front of a voracious Monday night crowd that had been lubricating even longer than usual on Route One. Chants “We want to Zappe” were inevitable. The public demoralization of Mac Jones had no reason to be.

“You hate to see one of your brothers treated like that,” said Meyers, who admitted to MassLive that offensive players didn’t know Belichick would employ two quarterbacks on the night. “You want to see him do well. You want to see everyone doing well, including Zappe, but when it comes to getting involved, you really don’t have time to focus on making decisions.

Where the Patriots go from here is a much bigger inquiry than just who gets the quarterback’s start on Sunday against the Jets. The loss to the pathetic Bears could end up being something of a landmark, the game where this team’s questionable and sassy Belichick structure took on enough water to stay down in the division. He still needs 23 wins to tie Don Shula as the NFL’s winning streak leader. The likelihood of that happening in New England dropped precipitously Monday night in Foxborough. Unless the Krafts agree to a decision-making process that gave their first-round investment a pair of otherwise-rejected head coaches instituting a new offense that failed at most every attempt.

Although they don’t know who will start on Sunday, the Patriots don’t have a quarterback controversy; they have a controversy over the philosophy of the franchise.

A soggy Monday night became one of the darkest in Gillette Stadium’s two-decade history.

Unfortunately, that only hinted at the coming storm.


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