The Patriots used to be the team that had an answer for everything. Answers have proven elusive for the Patriots during this annus horribilis for the Hoodie. But Bill Belichick & Co. have gotten one definitive answer this season. It’s just not the one they hoped for.
Mac Jones isn’t the answer at quarterback. He’s not the franchise quarterback for the future, and he shouldn’t be the starting quarterback of the present. Mac is a mess. He’s broken. The coach/quarterback relationship he shares with Belichick is busted, as is their trust in one another after the last three weeks, which included two disheartening losses and one bizarre and shambolic process of preparing a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Giants.
It’s over, and so should be Jones’s reign as starting quarterback. It’s time to move on. That’s not because Bailey Zappe represents a better option — it’s marginal at best — but because continuing to put Jones through this psychological wringer is cruel and unusual punishment, and, like the team’s offense, totally unproductive.
After all the intrigue and obfuscation regarding the naming of a starting quarterback, Jones started Sunday’s 10-7 loss. He didn’t finish it. MetLife Stadium may go down as the Waterloo of his Patriots career.
Jones was yanked yet again for Zappe, for the second consecutive game and the fourth time this season. This time the Hoodie Hook came at halftime with the team scoreless and Mac 12 of 21 for 89 yards with a pair of ghastly interceptions. The second pick came with the Patriots in field goal range and set up New York’s only touchdown after Bobby Okereke returned the errant pass to the New England 26.
It was pick 12 for Jones. No. 12 was once a magic number for the Patriots passing game. Now, it’s an integer of ineptitude.
“Just bad quarterback play,” Jones said. “It wasn’t good enough by me, so if the quarterback doesn’t play well, you got no chance.”
Why did we think the Patriots would be able to replace Tom Brady on their first real try with their first real candidate?
It’s clear that Jones is not a successful successor to Brady. The Patriots will have to go back into the draft or try to pick off a quarterback via trade or free agency to return to respectability.
The plan was to salvage Jones with old/new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Instead, this year’s offense makes the Matt Patricia one look like the Air Coryell Chargers. Jones is beyond fixing, at least in Foxborough.
His QB circuitry is fried, and so is his confidence. The more the Patriots drill him not to make mistakes, the more mistake-prone and tentative he becomes. You can thank Belichick for some of that.
Watching Belichick channel Steve Spurrier, flip-flopping quarterbacks at will, is like watching Meryl Streep do one of those treacly, formulaic Hallmark holiday movies. Still, Belichick has no good options. Perhaps, that’s why he waited so long to declare Sunday’s starter.
You always put off undesirable decisions.
“I thought both guys deserved a chance to play,” Belichick said postgame.
Translation: Neither QB distinguished himself.
Before a walkoff worthy of David Ortiz, Belichick parried away a question about who would start next Sunday against the Chargers.
“We just finished the game,” he bemoaned.
“I’m not focused on that,” Jones said. “Really, like I said, just got to control what I can control and put my best foot forward and not quit.”
But there’s only one option. It’s Zappe. The second-year signal-caller is not any sort of long-term solution, but Mac needs a breather, and Zappe should get a turn.
When Zappe led the team to its only points on the first drive of the second half, all he did was throw sideways and hand off. Zappe completed his first six passes for 38 yards on the touchdown drive, which ended a drought of 24 straight possessions without a TD.
However, Zappe was 3 of 8 for 16 yards the rest of the way, and threw a back-breaking interception that led to the decisive field goal. On his horrific interception, Zappe audibled, then threw the ball right to Giants safety Xavier McKinney.
He lacks the signal-caller sophistication and NFL aptitude to run O’Brien’s offense, which puts a lot on the quarterback pre- and post-snap, at a high level. That’s why the Patriots have auditioned other QBs for his backup job all season.
But Zappe, who maneuvered the Patriots into position for the potential tying field goal, deserves a chance to go through the week as the starter and get those reps. With a 2-9 record for the first time since 1992 and the AFC’s worst record, what do the Patriots have to lose other than more games?
Losing more games benefits them with draft position.
Frankly, watching the Patriots under both quarterbacks the last two games has been an affront to offensive football. They’ve combined for five interceptions and three scoring drives.
This was one of the most embarrassing losses of the Belichick era, considering the Giants came in dead last in the NFL in points per game, the Patriots were coming off a bye, and New York started Jersey Boy JAG (Just Another Guy) QB Tommy DeVito, albeit he’s a heartwarming story.
If the Patriots couldn’t win this game, what game can they win?
It’s tempting to say Jones played his last meaningful snaps as a Patriot. However, Belichick is too unpredictable as he tries to squeeze out every victory to catch Don Shula. Injuries could necessitate Jones playing. His contract only calls for him to make $2.785 million next season, so a new regime could want him to stick around as a bridge QB.
The Patriots’ offensive futility isn’t all on Jones, but he’s the focal point.
“Every time I talk to Mac, I tell him to keep his head up,” defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. said. “We’re rooting for you.
“I know it’s a tough situation. He’s a starting quarterback, and the spotlight is always on him. His spotlight is a lot brighter. He’s not the only one on the team having bad plays, bad games, but right now everybody is just talking about him.
“So, as a team, we have to continue to do well on our side, do our job, and keep rallying behind him.”
It’s too late to rally behind Jones. Instead, it’s time to put his behind on the bench for his own good and the team’s.
More Patriots coverage:
- Dan Shaughnessy: Bill Belichick is wired to win, but a hideous loss to the Giants makes us wonder if the Patriots are tanking
- Ugly loss to the Giants seals it: It’s over for Bill Belichick with the Patriots
- The Patriots had a chance to send it to OT, but missed field goal leads to fourth straight loss
- Patriots kicker Chad Ryland owns biggest miss of rookie season
- David Andrews weighs in on Patriots’ QB swap, backs Bill Belichick despite another loss
- What Patriots QBs Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe said after loss to the Giants