Mac or Zappe? Suffolk community weighs in on ongoing Patriots quarterback controversy

Very seldom do NFL coaches have the opportunity to draft a player that is expected to bring instant success to their team, a rare exception being Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in 2021. 

With the 15th overall pick, the Patriots selected Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the hopes of finding a worthy successor to Tom Brady. After an open quarterback competition between Jones, former NFL MVP Cam Newton, Jarret Stidham and veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, Belichick made the decision to roll with Jones moving into week one.

Jones took the opportunity and never looked back. He had an excellent rookie season, throwing for over 3,800 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, bringing the Patriots to a 10-7 record on the season and a playoff appearance for the first time since Brady’s departure from New England.

Jones was also a Pro Bowl Selection and was selected by his peers to the NFL Top 100 for his rookie year. Additionally, his performance got his name in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year, something that wasn’t even dreamt of at the start of the season.

Mac’s sophomore campaign has been a different story. 

Due to a multitude of factors including the Patriots’ questionable coaching hires in the off-season, poor play calling and a lack of pocket protection, Jones has regressed notably. In his first three weeks of the season, Jones only completed 65% of his passes for a total of 786 yards, five interceptions and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for Jones, he would also sustain a high ankle sprain in the week three matchup versus the Baltimore Ravens. 

In the wake of Jones’ injury, the Patriots opted to start Hoyer against the Green Bay Packers. However, Hoyer would sustain a concussion during the game, which led Belichick to play third-stringer Zappe. 

Zappe brought the Patriots into overtime, where they narrowly lost to the Packers. Zappe would start the next two games for New England against the Lions and the Browns. In those two games, he had a combined 497 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception. 

Many New England fans had forgotten what Jones had accomplished less than a year earlier, and were already embracing “Zappe Fever” or “Zappe Hour.” So when Jones was listed as the starter for week seven’s Monday night matchup against the Chicago Bears, many fans were upset for a number of reasons. 

Some thought it was too soon for Jones to return from injury and others simply believed that Zappe was a better quarterback. After Jones’ first few plays after returning, fans at Gillette Stadium were already chanting the backup quarterback’s name, wishing for Jones to be benched. 

“Zappe has promise, but Jones has more promise. I think the Patriots need to strengthen their offensive playcalling, but their defense looks pretty good”, said freshman Brody Sullivan. “Switching around Jones and Zappe in the Monday night game probably messed up Jones’ confidence though, which isn’t good.”

Other students, like Suffolk freshman Jack Beliveau, seemed to share the same beliefs as Sullivan surrounding the Patriots quarterback controversy.

“Mac has more knowledge than Zappe and he knows the offense better,” Beliveau said. “The play calling is questionable at times…It’s definitely different from Josh McDaniels’ [play calling]”. 

Beliveau pointed towards a big issue for the Patriots this season — the play calling. Whenever Jones is under center, it seems that the New England offense is more of a run-heavy offense with some short passing plays, but when Zappe is under center, the plays become more pass-heavy with less run plays. 

“The defense is fine, but I feel like they could just make better decisions when choosing the plays for offense,” said Beliveau. 

Although Jones was officially named the starter and took 90% of the first-team practice reps before the Patriots soared over the Jets in week eight, it goes without saying that the Patriots need to figure it out on offense — before it’s too late.