Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has developed a long-standing reputation for keeping everyone guessing, but on Monday night against the Bears, did he go too far?
All reports heading into the game indicated Mac Jones had re-secured the starting quarterback job.
Then, not even 20 minutes before kickoff, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted “it would not be a surprise to see both Patriots QBs, Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, play tonight.”
Over the first three drives of Jones’ return, he looked rusty, completing just 3 of 6 passes for 13 yards to go along with a rather ugly interception.
Despite the tough start, the Patriots only trailed by ten, but Belichick chose to go back to Bailey Zappe early in the second quarter, fulfilling the initial pregame report shared by Schefter.
The perplexing part? Why? Was Jones hurt? Was he benched? The speculation took off as some fans in the stadium regained their “Zappe Fever”.
Although Jones struggled, Belichick said after the game the switch had nothing to do with that or did it have anything to do with an injury.
Zappe did spark the offense some, helping the team rally from ten down to a four-point lead thanks to consecutive drives that ended in touchdowns, but that would be it for the remainder of the night. The Bears meanwhile went on to score 17 unanswered in what became a stunning rout.
The final stat line for Zappe wasn’t all that impressive either, he completed just 14 of 22 passes for 185 yards and two interceptions.
During his postgame presser, Belichick created more questions than answers regarding his QB decision-making.
“That’s not what it was, but you can write whatever you want to write,” Belichick said when asked if Jones was lifted over his performance. “That’s not what it was.”
Belichick explained he intended to bring Jones back at some point during the second half but changed his mind once he considered the game out of reach.
“He would have gone back in,” Belichick said. “The score got out of hand. I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.”
Although the defense was far from stellar, the game did not get out of hand until the fourth quarter, but Jones never returned, making that line questionable too.
According to Jones, he and Bailey were fully aware of Belichick’s plans for them Monday night.
“(It was) just part of the plan,” Jones said postgame. “I think Coach Belichick obviously did a really, really good job explaining it to me. 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. 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.”
As for his health, Jones passed on providing a percentage but felt ready.
“I don’t really do the whole percentage thing. You are either able to play or not. In the NFL, you don’t get any credit for playing hurt or not, and there are no excuses,” Jones said. “So I felt like I was good to go. With time, it will get better. I’ve just got to play better.”
During Zappe’s presser, he deferred to Belichick on most game plan-related questions in his press conference but did say “Nothing to my knowledge,” when asked if there were conversations about Jones reentering the game.
He also said he found out Jones was going to start the game at quarterback “about the same time y’all did.”
So here is where things really get curious.
Jakobi Meyers, Michael Onwenu, and Rhamondre Stevenson shared postgame remarks that seemingly contradict Belichick and Jones.
“Yeah,” Meyers said in response to a question about whether or not he was surprised Zappe took over. “But that’s the NFL for you. It’s a fast-changing business.”
“Not even as a football player, it’s tough as a man to see somebody who worked so hard get that kind of treatment,” Meyers continued. “But at the end of the day, we’re all trying to feed our families, so we’ve got to go out there and make plays for whoever’s throwing it.”
Meyers later clarified his frustrations directed at the just the coaches but also the fans when they began cheering for Zappe.
Onwenu said he also didn’t expect Zappe to play and that the team “didn’t have any notice” when he entered the game.
As for Stevenson, he too said “No. We weren’t aware,” of the plan to play two quarterbacks.
So to wrap it all together, Belichick didn’t specify why Jones was benched, other than it was not over an injury or performance, with the QB even saying he knew the plans for him all along, but at the same time, he has teammates contradicting those comments made by him and Belichick.
“I didn’t talk to Jakobi after the game,” Belichick said on WEEI in regard to Meyer’s comments. “I’m not sure about all that.”
So why didn’t Belichick just come out and tell his team his plans for both players? Perhaps Belichick underestimated the Bears and felt he could get Jones some early snaps, score quick, build a big lead and let Zappe finish it.
Here is what we do know. Moving forward, Belichick has to commit to one quarterback because whatever his plans Monday were, did not work out, and his team needs to get back on the same page quickly with a huge divisional game against the Jets looming.
It is one thing to keep your opponents guessing, but to leave many of your players guessing, even if unintentional, is an unusual and disappointing approach, especially from someone like Belichick. As a result, if there wasn’t a quarterback controversy before, there may be one now.
What a confusing and weird night in Foxboro for everyone not named the Bears.
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Season
Tags: Bailey Zappe Bill Belichick Jakboi Meyers Mac Jones Michael Onwenu