New England came into this season with high expectations after a successful 2021 campaign.
The Patriots returned to the postseason with a 10-7 record behind the performance of rookie quarterback Mac Jones. However, the Patriots have not had the same success as last year.
Through four weeks, New England has a 1-3 record and sits at the bottom of the AFC East. During their Week 3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Jones suffered an ankle injury that could keep him out long-term. In their Week 4 loss to the Green Bay Packers, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer left the game in the first quarter with a head injury.
Third-string rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe entered the game in relief and nearly led the Patriots to an overtime victory. Zappe had a completion percentage of 66.7% and threw for 99 yards and one touchdown in the 27-24 loss.
With how he played and led the team on Sunday, head coach Bill Belichick should consider keeping Zappe under center, even when Jones and Hoyer return healthy. Either way, Zappe starting will impact New England’s odds to make the playoffs.
Can Zappe Turn The Season Around in New England?
The Patriots drafted Zappe in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He was the fifth quarterback taken off the board, behind Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis, and Matt Corral. However, Zappe was the first QB of his draft class to throw a touchdown pass (Pickett had two rushing touchdowns).
After four years at Houston Baptist, Zappe transferred to Western Kentucky and had one of the greatest single seasons in college football history. Zappe threw for an FBS-record 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns, led the country in attempts (686), and led the conference in completions (475), completion percentage (69.2%), and QB rating (168.9). He also punched in three touchdowns on the ground.
While many rookie quarterbacks might struggle in their first few starts in the NFL, Zappe has one advantage that very few quarterbacks have: having a Hall-of-Fame coach coming up with the game plan. Zappe doesn’t need to be flashy to be successful, as Belichick will design the right scheme that fits him best.
Zappe’s performance on Sunday doesn’t jump off the stats page, but he had a solid day considering that two weeks prior, he was the team’s third-string QB. And he wasn’t just thrown into a game where the Patriots were being blown out. Instead, Zappe helped lead the team to overtime against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Now, he’s in line to start the first game of his career in Week 5.
There is always the option of the Patriots going in a different direction at quarterback. A Cam Newton return could happen, while trading for another, more experienced quarterback as a rental could be a good option. However, with the Patriots spending a fourth-round draft pick on Zappe and his performance on Sunday, it wouldn’t make sense to bring in someone else.
The next six games are also winnable for New England. Four of those games take place in Foxboro, and they’ll be facing the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, New York Jets (twice), and Indianapolis Colts. If Zappe can get on a roll early in that slate, the Patriots should stick with the hot hand.
It’s still too early to tell how Zappe will perform in his first start, but it’s worth giving him a long-term look while Jones returns to 100% health.
And if Zappe is winning games and playing well, they should stick with him.
Featured Image: USA Today Sports