Three quarterbacks reside on the New England Patriots’ active roster. Which one starts next remains to be seen.
But after Mac Jones was benched with 4:25 remaining in Frankfurt, Germany, after an underthrow in the red zone off his back foot became his tenth interception, there likely is no right answer.
The 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts marked the third time this season that the team captain had been pulled. The previous, though, came in games that were out of reach. In a free fall at 2-8, the rest is out of reach and has been.
Ahead is the bye week to determine where the remainder of 2023 will go under center and elsewhere.
“We just got back from Germany,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters during his Monday video conference at Gillette Stadium. “We’ll work through everything. We’ll look at everything, all the way across the board. Not specifically one position, but just look at everything and do the best we can here going forward.”
Jones finished 15-of-20 passing for 170 yards at Deutsche Bank Park to go with the pick by safety Julian Blackmon.
The former No. 15 overall pick out of Alabama was sacked five times in the first half, including four times on third down. His longest completion came on a screen for 30 yards to rookie receiver Demario Douglas as time expired going into intermission. A late, underhanded toss in the flat to running back Rhamondre Stevenson followed. So did an animated sideline discussion with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
The Patriots turned to backup Bailey Zappe with 1:52 to play and no timeouts.
“Yeah, no, just the way the game was going,” Belichick said when asked whether the decision to switch quarterbacks was cumulative.
Zappe, the 2022 fourth-round pick by way of Houston Baptist and Western Kentucky, cleared waivers at the league’s roster deadline in August and began September on practice squad. His lone drive Sunday ended seconds after a conversion on fourth-and-1. It ended with a fake snap and an errant downfield throw into a crowd of Colts defensive backs that included the intercepting Rodney Thomas II.
“Well, Bailey’s had some opportunities,” Belichick said. “I think he’s prepared well every week. We’ve called on him in the end of a couple games, three games, I guess it was. So, I think he stepped in and did the best he could. Was it perfect? No. Were there some positive things? Yes.”
In three relief appearances as an NFL sophomore, Zappe has completed 10-of-25 passes for 104 yards and Sunday’s turnover. The emergency third quarterback behind him has been Will Grier, an arrival off the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals who started two games as a rookie with the Carolina Panthers in 2019.
“Will’s certainly improving every week in terms of understanding and working with his teammates and running the scout team and executing the plays that he has the opportunity to,” Belichick said of the West Virginia product. “There’s just not a lot of opportunities for the third position, which is where he’s been, but he’s taken advantage of the ones that he’s had.”
Undrafted rookie Malik Cunningham, who returned to the practice squad in October after 10 days on the 53-man roster, rounds out the quarterback room as a developmental option in between positions.
The Patriots are in between, too.
The 2-8 New York Giants host Week 12 at MetLife Stadium.