The conversation surrounding the quarterbacks on the Patriots has dramatically shifted over the past few weeks. Mac Jones’ start to the season was not looking great, with many becoming concerned the second-year quarterback was showing regression already. The offense wasn’t clicking, there were far too many turnovers, and the Patriots started with a 1-2 record.
To make matters worse, Jones suffered a high ankle sprain in the week three loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
In his absence, Brian Hoyer got the start in Green Bay much to the dismay of Patriots’ fans and the Boston media. But the veteran’s day ended swiftly in the first quarter after suffering a head injury that eventually led to his placement on injured reserve.
That’s where rookie Bailey Zappe comes in. Most around the New England area were hoping to see Zappe get the start in week four over Hoyer, and fortunately for them but unfortunately for Hoyer, they got their wish sooner than anticipated. With little preparation leading up to the game, the rookie impressed onlookers as he kept the offense within reach of a win all the way through the final seconds of halftime.
Despite the loss, Zappe’s performance received a lot of praise. Outside of typical rookie mistakes, he looked like a quarterback who could hang in the big leagues and carried himself like a true professional regardless of the unique circumstances. But then came the critics, unhappy with the Patriots losing another game and downplaying even the idea of moral victory.
And that wasn’t where it stopped.
Instead of taking Zappe’s performance for what it was, embracing that he helped take an Aaron Rodgers-led team through overtime and showing excitement for the future, the idea of a quarterback controversy began to spread. It has only gotten worse as Zappe has remained the starter for the last two weeks, winning both games against the Lions and the Browns.
Now there’s an apparent full-blown competition amongst the two and rumors circulating from reporters regarding the impression from those inside of Gillette Stadium. But when speaking to the media on Wednesday, Devin McCourty put those rumors to bed when asked how the team morale has been through the last few weeks.
"“You see Mac start the year, you see Zappe come in, we win two games, so it creates like the whole story and everything. But I think overall in the locker room, guys just appreciating having a good time. And I think that’s been the fun part for my time in New England. Everything can be going on in the outside, but inside that locker room, everybody’s kinda geared up, getting ready to go.”"
McCourty went on to emphasize how the team is chasing the ‘after a win feeling’ and working towards building upon the success of the last two games. He made it a point that the team is not focused on who is playing as the quarterback, who’s better or who’s not, but rather focusing on improving every week and working on becoming an overall better football team.
"“This team does a really good job of playing hard and playing with effort, but actually executing leads to wins. So I think that’s been more of the focus than, ‘How is it with Zappe? How is it with Mac?’ I think guys have been really locked in.”"
This might sound like a typical answer from someone within the Patriots organization and that may be in fact, true. But a lot of the noise about who the better quarterback is has been media, and in some cases, fan-created, and is not the feeling coming from the team.
Listening to McCourty’s response while also adding in all that has been said and seen up to this moment is a clear indicator that there is no smoke leading to the quarterback controversy fire. It’s all media-driven speculation that has become the latest headline to take over Boston sports coverage.
The Patriots are now preparing for their first primetime game of the season, as the Chicago Bears visit Foxboro on Monday Night Football. It’s unclear who will be leading the offense that night, but whether it’s Jones or Zappe, the offense is in good hands.