The New England Patriots are back to .500 in the tough AFC East, and they’ve done it without Mac Jones. Do we have a QB controversy brewing in Foxboro?
Listen, is Bailey Zappe perfect? Certainly not. In Sunday’s 38-15 win over the Cleveland Browns, the Patriots’ rookie quarterback made plenty of mistakes. There were underthrown passes, overthrown passes, and it looked on one play as if he was trying to get DeVante Parker killed over the middle of the field. Yes, Zappe got plenty of help from Rhamondre Stevenson and the defense in Sunday’s win, but he also executed the offensive gameplan efficiently and mostly mistake-free.
In his first two career starts, the fourth round rookie has completed 74.5% of his attempts, with three touchdown throws to one interception. On Sunday, he eclipsed the 300-yard mark with a cool 309. In a run-first offense, that’s notable. He has been poised in the pocket and hasn’t hesitated to push the ball downfield when windows open. He’s no Lamar Jackson, but he has shown an ability to escape pressure and throw the ball away when needed. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Last season, we heaped praise on Mac Jones for very similar reasons, as he led the Patriots back to the playoffs in his rookie campaign. Patriots fans and the media alike rushed to anoint him the successor to Tom Brady, citing his efficiency and cool pocket presence. But it wasn’t necessarily surprising.
Mac starred at Alabama under Nick Saban, where he handed off to Najee Harris and played pitch-and-catch with stars like DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. He was used to this. The moment wasn’t too big for him. When he fell into Bill Belichick’s lap at #15 in the 2021 NFL Draft, it made too much sense.
For most Patriots fans, Zappe’s recent success has been a bit more surprising. If you weren’t gambling stupid money on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers last year like some of us, it’s fair for you to be unfamiliar with the young quarterback. Even though he set multiple NCAAF single season passing records, he did so while playing in Conference USA, after an even more obscure college career at FCS Houston Baptist.
He came into the league an underdog, a real headscratcher draft choice for fans who had already invested in Mac Jones jerseys, bobbleheads, and rookie cards. When the Patriots selected him in the fourth round, it made almost no sense at all.
But what if it did? For those seeking to draw Tom Brady comparisons last year with regards to Mac Jones, what if the Bailey Zappe story is actually more akin to that of Brady? We all know that story by now; Drew Bledsoe, fresh off signing the largest contract extension in NFL history, loses his job to underdog sixth rounder Tom Brady.
In 2001, Drew Bledsoe may have had more job security than any other quarterback in the NFL. And yet, that didn’t mean a thing. So, why now would it be insane to imagine Zappe supplanting Jones as the starter?
Zappe isn’t perfect. Neither is Mac. Neither was Tom. But the NFL isn’t about perfection. It’s about doing enough to win games. Maybe Bailey Zappe never becomes the starter, but let’s not rush Mac back before he’s fully healthy. Because right now the rookie is doing enough to win games, and he’s doing so in a compelling way.