Devin McCourty adds to the Patriots’ 2022 quarterback controversy
Amongst the list of struggles during the Patriots’ 2022 season was what slowly became a quarterback controversy.
Mac Jones was entering just his second season in the NFL and coming off an impressive rookie campaign that injected hope back into the New England fanbase. But Bill Belichick’s personnel decisions over the summer after Josh McDaniels’ departure erased any confidence onlookers had for the team’s future, mainly due to Matt Patricia’s newly awarded offensive coordinator duties.
The offense throughout the preseason looked like a total mess. Players who had standout performances just a year before looked like entirely different guys on the field, including Jones.
The playbook was tossed away with a new scheme put in place, something the Patriots hadn’t done in several years nor needed to do because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? It was a new system that clearly wasn’t working offensively and continued that way throughout the entirety of the regular season.
Although Belichick wouldn’t publicly acknowledge his poor choice of coaches directly impacted the season’s trajectory, more often defending said choices than criticizing them, it was apparent he was at least aware enough come Jones’ return from injury.
Bailey Zappe made the start in Jones’ place after Brian Hoyer was knocked out of the Packers game in week four. The rookie handled the pressure considerably well and moved the season forward with three of four wins in Jones’ absence.
Then when Jones was set to return against the Bears, the quarterback carousel began.
The quarterback started the game in Chicago and struggled early on. Because the Patriots’ offense had been looking that way for much of the season to that point, it wasn’t nearly a shock. But Belichick made the controversial decision to pull Jones from the game after just three series’ in favor of Zappe, much to the delight of those with “Zappe fever.”
And although he claimed the decision was made ahead of time, neither quarterback claimed to know the plan before the game, creating an even bigger mess for the team to deal with in the coming weeks.
Other than a section of Patriots fans clamoring for Jones to be benched for Zappe to take over, Devin McCourty revealed last week during an appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show that some players felt that way, too.
"“I think player-wise there was enough trust that we’re going to put the best guy out there. But the struggles on offense, I think there were some guys in the locker room that were like, ‘Let’s go with Zappe.’ Or, ‘No, Mac looked good today.’ It was just a back-and-forth, which to me, spoke more about what we had on offense than the quarterback. We never were solidified as an offensive group that guys had full confidence in anything we were doing. There was never true hope.”"
It’s one thing for fans and Boston media to suggest a change at quarterback, but hearing some of Jones’ teammates felt that way is astounding.
McCourty’s acknowledgment of the offense’s situation provides the context needed when evaluating Jones’ season. Many feel he should’ve been able to overcome the difficulties of working with inexperienced coaches like Patricia and Joe Judge, but as just a second-year quarterback in the NFL, he was not set up for success in 2022.
The good news moving forward, however, is it seems like Belichick has learned from the mistakes of last year by making several significant moves during the offseason.
From hiring Bill O’Brien as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach to Adrian Klemm as the offensive line coach and the fantastic moves made in free agency thus far, Jones has a much better shot at getting the Patriots back on track next season.
Although the head coach has yet to give a gleaming review and defense of Jones as the starting quarterback in New England, McCourty explicitly believes he is the team’s future and should begiven a chance to succeed before being heavily scrutinized.
"“I don’t think he should be subjected to as much displeasure and scrutiny as he gets. We sat here his rookie year and said, ‘Hey, I’m with this! I like this new era.’ We go to the playoffs and it’s like ‘Here we go!’ Then what happened this year from an offensive situation coaching-staff-wise … He needs to have some consistency [around him].”"
It’s still too early in the offseason to form an opinion one way or the other about how the Patriots’ 2023 season may go, but the moves made so far provide a much-improved feeling than what was going on at this point last year.