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Dan Shaughnessy

Patriots’ attempt at a guessing game on starting QB was uncalled for, and other thoughts

All week, Bill Belichick (above) said only that Mac Jones was being evaluated day by day, then Jones was ruled out Friday.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Picked-up pieces while waiting to see Brian Hoyer play quarterback for the Patriots Sunday . . .

▪ Mac Jones or Hoyer?

What’s the difference, really? Jones has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL this season. Hoyer has lost his last 11 games as a starter, with seven touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He has not won as a starting quarterback in the NFL since 2016.

Jones suffered a high ankle sprain at the end of last weekend’s home loss to the Ravens and we’ve spent the week assuming he can’t play against the Packers Sunday. But Bill Belichick dangled the carrot all week, insisting that Mac was “day to day” even though he did not practice Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, and reportedly went looking for a second opinion while considering surgery. On Friday afternoon, the Patriots finally placed him on the inactive list.

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Does Bill really think this ambiguity in any way confused the Packers? Is there really a competitive advantage to this stupid guessing game?

There is not. It just demonstrates the intransigence and self-importance of Belichick and the folks at Fort Foxborough. Some of you might remember Bill pulling this same stunt before the Patriots’ first Super Bowl win in New Orleans. Twenty-four-year-old Tom Brady suffered a high ankle sprain (less severe than Jones’s) in the first half of the AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh in January 2002. Drew Bledsoe subbed for Tom, threw a touchdown pass, and played the entire second half.

There was no extra week between the conference championship and the Super Bowl that year, and as soon as we got to New Orleans, Bill floated the notion that young Brady might not be available for the big game. Belichick kept everybody guessing deep into the week, even though we all knew it was going to be Brady.

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That was the Super Bowl. That was Brady or Bledsoe.

This is nothing like that. Hoyer gets the start. Look out below.

▪ Quiz: Five of the top 20 career home run leaders never won an MVP. Name them (answer below).

▪ Four hours before Tua Tagovailoa took the field Thursday in Cincinnati, Chris Nowinski, director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, tweeted, “If Tua takes the field tonight, it’s a massive step back for #concussion care in the NFL. If he has a second concussion that destroys his season or career, everyone involved will be sued & should lose their jobs, coaches included. We all saw it, even they must know it isn’t right.”

Sure enough, just four days after Tagovailoa had his bell rung against Buffalo, he played against the Bengals and was slammed to the ground by 340-pound Josh Tupou midway through the second quarter. Tagovailoa left the field on a stretcher and was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center via ambulance.

Tua Tagovailoa left the field on a stretcher Thursday.Dylan Buell/Getty

Tagovailoa was able to rejoin his teammates later that night and flew home with the team. His coach, Mike McDaniel, said, “The best news that we could get is that everything’s checked out and that he didn’t have anything more serious than a concussion.”

This is not a helpful comment. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can lead to debilitating long-term consequences. Tagovailoa clearly sustained a blow to the head four days before sustaining this concussion. Players across the league are rightfully outraged at the handling of the situation.

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Two side notes on this topic: 1. Nobody around here should get too high and mighty after the way Julian Edelman was celebrated for staying in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks after taking a vicious hit to the head and wobbling all over the place. 2. The Amazon Prime broadcast crew came up short with its failure — in the moment or during its halftime panel segment — to raise the question of whether Tagovailoa should have even been playing four days after what happened against the Bills. Fans are not stupid.

▪ Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer sat on my porch for a couple of hours Wednesday while the Orioles were in town. He took questions from a group of authors, historians, and hometown/college pals.

Best moment came during a lull in the spirited conversation, when former Boston College women’s soccer coach Michael LaVigne leaned in and asked, “Jim, after all those decades and games and awards, was there one game that stands out for you?”

Palmer hesitated thoughtfully, paused for a second, then quietly said, “Well there was that game in the ‘66 World Series when I shut out the Dodgers and beat Sandy Koufax in his last game when I was 20.”

Oh yeah. That one.

Less awesome was a private moment Palmer shared when I was driving him to Fenway to broadcast Wednesday’s game.

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“I don’t want to name any names,” Palmer said. “But I was talking with a couple of the Red Sox around the batting cage last night and made a joke about the cheap home runs that get hit down by Pesky’s Pole. One of the young guys didn’t know about the Pesky Pole, so I told him that Johnny Pesky regularly got 200 hits and batted in front of the last .400 hitter.

“The kid said, ‘You mean David Ortiz?’ I explained to him that Ortiz never hit .400, then told him about Ted Williams, and he said he had never heard of Ted Williams.”

Sigh.

▪ Here’s a whopper that says everything you need to know about the 2022 Red Sox: After beating the Orioles for a third straight time at Fenway Thursday, J.D. Martinez told NESN, “We’re all trying to have fun, and keep things loose in the clubhouse and keep things loose in the dugout. I feel like we’re honestly playing more relaxed.

More relaxed? Now that the games mean nothing? Now that it’s late September and you played sloppy, embarrassing baseball when the games mattered? The “loose” and “relaxed” Sox went into the weekend in last place with six losses in their last nine games.

J.D. Martinez (left) and Alex Verdugo were all smiles after Martinez homered Thursday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

▪ Eighty-six-year-old Gerald Eskenazi, who once wrote an authorized biography of Carl Yastrzemski, last week penned a New York Times remembrance of covering a Yankees day game on the eve of Rosh Hashana in 1971.

When the Yankees and Indians dueled in the late innings of a 2-2 game, the scribe worried that he would not make it back home to Long Island before sundown services. Eskenazi was rescued by Ron Blomberg’s walkoff single, and the next day’s Times headline was, “Sundown Kid Hits Deadline Single.”

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▪ The clock is ticking on Xander Bogaerts’s tenure with the Red Sox. Wednesday’s season finale could be an emotional day at Fenway. From a PR standpoint, the Sox would do well to tear up the existing deal, offer Bogaerts a new contract at market value, and make the offer public so that fans know what Bogaerts is turning down if he leaves.

The Sox’ fallback of “he’s going to leave anyway” (the Mookie Betts PR strategy) doesn’t work unless it’s demonstrated that the organization is willing to pay market value. Positioning yourselves as smarter than free-spending organizations doesn’t work when you finish last every other year.

▪ What was all the fuss about Trevor Story? He played 94 games and hit .238.

▪ Listening to excuses that analytics guys make for underperforming ballplayers, I want to go back to my senior year of high school and reapply to college. I would tell Harvard that my “expected” SAT scores were perfect 800s. I was just unlucky when I took the test and came in at 560.

▪ Love how much of a non-event it was when the 2021 world champion Atlanta Braves gathered at the White House for a photo op with the president last Monday.

President Joe Biden meets the Braves.Win McNamee/Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty

▪ There’s still time for the Sox to roll out Big Papi three more times before the season ends at Fenway Wednesday.

▪ On the night Aaron Judge hit his 61st homer, Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins tweeted to Judge and wrote, “Many including myself consider your next home run to be the all-time single season record. Go get em!”

▪ Honk twice if you knew that the NFL single-game record for passing yards is still Norm Van Brocklin’s 554 for the Rams against the New York Yanks in the LA Coliseum in 1951. That’s 71 years ago. Brady’s best was 517 against the Dolphins in 2011.

▪ Boston College, UConn, and UMass lost their Division 1 football games last weekend by an aggregate 113-24.

▪ I can hear Kevin McHale bragging that Roger Maris was born in Hibbing, Minn.

▪ Let’s not forget that Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, like Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, is a proud grad of Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, R.I.

▪ There goes my Cooperstown vote for American chess player Hans Niemann.

▪ Quiz answer: Jim Thome (eighth, 612 homers), Mark McGwire (11th, 583), Rafael Palmeiro (13th, 569), Manny Ramirez (15th, 555), David Ortiz (17th, 541).


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.