Sports media loves to create drama and mystique surrounding nearly everything you can think of, but especially regarding Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Throughout the summer, as the offense continued to struggle there was a lot of talk surrounding the development of Mac Jones and the appearance that he was regressing in year two. Although a slightly dramatic take, it became a focal point for media outlets, and conclusions were drawn about the future of the Patriots for the 2022 season.
As the regular season began and the offensive problems continued, a lot of blame shifted Jones’ way. Not only did Matt Patricia receive a lot of scrutiny, but the young quarterback was being written off in some cases as the denominator for the team’s overall lack of success.
When Jones went down with a high ankle sprain at the end of week two, Brian Hoyer was said to be given the starting job in his absence. The choice was met with much displeasure, as many had wanted to see what rookie Bailey Zappe could bring to the team. Fortunately for them, that came a lot sooner than anticipated.
In the first quarter of game three, Hoyer suffered a concussion that resulted in his removal for the remainder of the game. He was placed on injured reserve a few days later, officially giving Zappe the starting title with both QB1 and QB2 injured.
Zappe’s performance in Green Bay despite the loss was met with a lot of praise. His impressive showing nearly secured the team’s first win of the season, against a strong opponent in a tough atmosphere. His second start the following week gained him even more fans, as the Patriots put a stop to the highest-scoring offense in the league.
With reports circulating through the course of the week regarding Jones’ recovery, Belichick has been questioned about who will be making the start in Cleveland on Sunday. But in typical Belichick fashion, little to no clarity was provided in his answer.
On Wednesday, when asked directly if Jones would be getting the start in week six, the coach simply responded saying, “We’ll see where he is today. I don’t know.”
In a follow-up question, Belichick was asked if Zappe’s performance has influenced the timetable of Jones’ return. He responded by saying, “They’re totally independent. It doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
Speculation began to swirl that Belichick’s answer (or lack thereof) showed a noncommitment to Jones overall. Because he didn’t have a great performance through the first two weeks of the season, many feel Belichick could repeat history once again by starting his backup, who he deems to give the team a better chance to win, than having Jones start upon his return.
Could that be possible? Sure, it could. Is it likely to happen? Probably not.
Regardless of how Zappe has performed in two weeks, there’s a reason the Patriots chose Jones in the first round of the 2021 draft. The first month of the season has been known to be tough for New England and Jones was likely working through some early season troubles that would eventually be forgotten about.
Suffering a high ankle sprain and going 1-1 with your QB3 does not provide any sort of inkling that Belichick will all of a sudden give up on his presumed quarterback of the future. As great as Zappe has been, he still has work to do and needs proper time to develop. If and when Jones is ready to return, he will take the reins and immediately get back under center for the Patriots.
Outside of what has been said this week, it was reported on Wednesday by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Jones has a chance to play in the upcoming week six game. If he is good to go, Belichick will put him right back in.
"“Mac Jones has a decent chance to play this week against Cleveland. I’m told he has progressed and even made last week’s decision to go with Bailey Zappe interesting. Jones is dealing with a high ankle sprain but appears to have avoided long-term issues or the need for immediate surgery. If Jones is healthy, he’s the quarterback. The Zappe Hour is a great story but might not last long.”"
It may be fun to some to stir up controversy during a slow news day, but this speculation is nothing to be taken seriously. Yes, Belichick has benched his starting quarterback in the past but this situation doesn’t appear all that similar.
As of right now, this is Mac Jones’ team and that is unlikely to change any time soon.