Anchor Staff Writer
The New England Patriots are a team in limbo. They currently sit in last place in the AFC East division, with a record of three wins and three losses. Their Pro Bowl Quarterback, Mac Jones, is currently dealing with an ankle injury, and the team still is without a set offensive coordinator seven weeks into the season. Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who rejoined the team from the Detroit Lions in 2021 as an advisor and offensive line coach, has taken on the majority of the play calling responsibility, along with help from Joe Judge, offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach. This split role did not result in success throughout the first four weeks of the season. During those four weeks, the team faced a record of one win and three losses after a 24-27 overtime loss to the Packers that also saw Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer go down with a concussion, which resulted in him being placed on injured reserve.
Once Hoyer went down, in came Bailey Zappe. Relatively unknown to NFL fans outside of New England, Zappe was a fourth round pick in this year’s draft. The former Western Kentucky University quarterback was seen as at best, a new backup quarterback for Jones, someone who would come in to replace the aging Hoyer and act as some friendly competition for Jones in his sophomore season training camp. Zappe would go on to play in three preseason games, where he completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 462 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Not exactly promising numbers, however, he was the night of Oct. 2nd, now starting against Aaron Rodgers in a primetime game.
Zappe finished the game with 10 completions on 15 attempts, good enough for 99 yards and one touchdown. He wasn’t able to secure the victory, but he had just pushed the reigning NFL MVP in Rodgers to overtime, and had it not been for some late game heroics, Zappe might’ve ended up as the quarterback on top in the end. Many considered the game a moral victory, the Patriots now had a reliable option to lean on until Jones returned from injury. Zappe would capitalize on his new found opportunity by leading the Patriots to a 29-0 shutout win over the Detroit Lions, a team that interim offensive play caller Patricia had coached. Zappe finished with 188 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 17 completions out of 21 attempts – solid, but not stellar numbers.
This didn’t matter however, as long as the team was winning, and their winning ways continued into the next week when they took on the Cleveland Browns and secured a 38-15 win. Zappe truly shined in this game, throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns on 24 completions out of 34 attempts. Like the previous weeks, Zappe was aided by a strong run game led by Rhomandre Stevenson, who himself finished with touchdowns on 76 yards against Cleveland. New England’s defense also continued to show up, intercepting former New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett twice. Like Zappe, Brissett once had the tough task of replacing a notable Patriots quarterback, a little known player that goes by Tom Brady, maybe you’ve heard of him.
So, this leads us to our current predicament. Jones’ ankle is getting better each week, however so is Zappe’s play. So should the Patriots stick with the hot hand and continue to ride with Zappe, or is Jones still the bonafide starter despite some shaky performance in the beginning of the season? This whole dilemma will seem all too familiar to Patriots fans, as obvious similarities can be made to the 2001 situation which saw Drew Bledsoe go down for several weeks with a lung injury after a vicious hit from New York Jets player Mo Lewis. The man who stepped in to replace him was that relatively unknown player, at least at the time, that we spoke about earlier: Brady. The rest as many people know is history. That single freak event helped spark the entire Patriots 20-year dynasty.
Is history repeating itself in New England? Both injured quarterbacks have unique situations that would, or did make people believe they should continue to be the starter once healthy. Jones, as stated previously, made the Pro Bowl last year while also being a first round rookie draft pick, and Bledsoe had, at the time, just signed a massive 10-year, $103 million dollar extension with New England prior to the 2001 season. However, both quarterbacks were also outplayed, at least thus far, by their replacements.
New England’s next game is Monday night against the Chicago Bears, where they face Justin Fields, a tough defense and dual threat quarterback. The Patriots have yet to announce their starting quarterback for that game. Regardless, it is clear that the performance of whoever starts will greatly impact New England’s plans for the near future. Whether it’s with Jones, or Zappe, we may be seeing the beginnings of a new dynasty in New England.