New England Patriots

New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 03: Bailey Zappe #4 of the New England Patriots meets with head coach Bill Belichick in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In terms of game flow, Sunday’s 6-0 New England Patriots loss to the Los Angeles Chargers felt familiar. However, there was one notable difference.

After entering games in relief four times this year – including a halftime switch last week – second-year quarterback Bailey Zappe made his first start of the 2023 season on Sunday. This came after weeks of external calls for a quarterback change with 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones struggling significantly for the better part of the last two months.


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At a certain point, a quarterback change seemed inevitable. Some expected it coming out of the bye week last week, but Jones started in New York against the Giants with Zappe replacing him at halftime. Neither quarterback played particularly well in that 10-7 loss.

So, why the switch this week? Bill Belichick was asked that question following Sunday’s game, and seemed to give a genuine answer.

  • FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 03: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    “I thought he deserved it,” Belichick said when asked by Zappe got the start in this game.

    Zappe finished the game 13-of-25 for 141 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He also carried the ball four times for 16 yards, picking up two first downs with his legs.

    “He’s worked hard all year,” Belichick added, when asked what specifically Zappe showed the coaching staff to get this chance. “I thought he deserved a chance to play. We made that decision last week” Belichick wouldn’t specify if Zappe’s practice performance improved in recent weeks leading up to the change, but a report from Andrew Callahan of The Boston Herald on Friday indicated that wasn’t the case.

    However, when asked why the team didn’t make the move sooner, Belichick seemed to indicate this was more a case of Jones losing the job, than Zappe winning it.

  • “We gave Mac the opportunity to work through his progression with the offense and obviously we haven’t had a lot of production,” Belichick said, when asked why the change didn’t come earlier in the season. “I thought Bailey deserved a chance to play. So, he played today.”

    Those all seem like relatively forward answers from a coach often known for evading questions. There was one question Belichick did talk around though, when he was asked if he feels like the organization let Jones down in his development.

    “Just trying to put the best team we can out there every week,” he replied to that one.

    As for if Zappe will remain the starter, Belichick declined to answer a question about that, replying “we just got done with the game.” With it being a short week though – the Patriots visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday – another quarterback switch would be tough.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.

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