Mac Jones passed the point of no return nine days ago in Germany. The former first-round pick blew the New England Patriots' best chance to beat the Indianapolis Colts with a mind-numbing interception that put all his worst traits on display. Bill Belichick benched him for the offense's next attempt at a game-winning drive. It didn't go well, the Patriots lost to drop to 2-8, and Belichick looked like he was falling into a deep depression on the sideline.
Everybody knew Jones wouldn't be the starter coming out of the bye. He's gotten benched before and subsequently thrown back out there the following game but this was different. Belichick choosing to go with the ice-cold Bailey Zappe after getting the ball with a minute and a half to go down by a touchdown shattered any of the remaining illusion that he had something resembling confidence in Jones to execute. Most people recognized that and the euology for Jones' time as a Patriot has already been written.
There are still games left to be played, though, and Belichick met with the media for the first time since Germany on Tuesday. He was asked about the QB situation. He answered exactly as you'd expect.
Whether it's for the "competitive advantage" or to keep the guys in the quarterback room on their toes, or simply a strong disdain for the general public, Belichick just couldn't give a straight answer. It is a sign that he's going to screw this up even worse than it already is.
How is that possible? Well, New England is one of the worst teams in the league and no longer has even a hint of a hope of an answer at quarterback. Things are bad. But the rest of the season doesn't have to be a total wash. They can see if Zappe is any good with the full-throated support of the coaching staff behind him for a few weeks. They can give Will Grier the same treatment. Even Malik Cunningham, currrently on the practice squad, is worth a look. There's value to be derived from a lost year, finding out what you have, even in less-than-ideal circumstances.
By acting like this, Belichick is making the situation even less ideal. Making the starting QB gig a big ol' mystery is not going to inspire them. That's an offseason trick where there's plenty of practices and fake games to run through. Instead, it's going to sow doubt and fear. Each player is going to be terrified of making a mistake, thinking as soon as they do Belichick will move onto the next guy.
That is exactly the sort of environment Belichick has loved to foster over all these years because he consistently accumulated players who thrived with that mindset. Tom Brady was one such player. Brady didn't play scared but he understood that mistakes were unacceptable and had the skillset to very rarely make them. The rest of the roster followed his example to the best of their abilities. It inspired them, to play with such an aversion to errors and miscues.
The 2023 Patriots are obviously not that type of team and the quarterbacks Belichick employs are not those types of players. This is a roster where that aura of paranoia begets more mistakes. They simply are not good enough to be coached like one bad play is the end of their playing career. Doing so has resulted in a 2-8 record. Yet it seems Belichick is entirely unwilling to adjust. Which isn't a shock from what we've seen so far, yet is still surprising given his long history of being ahead of the curve in all things football.
This season could still provide some value to the Pats. But Belichick is going to juggle each of the quarterbacks at his disposal, blindly throwing them out there in hopes they'll help him get another win closer to Don Shula while robbing them of the consistency needed to do so.
There's no way things get better but they can get a lot worse. Belichick's quotes here indicate he's more than happy to send his roster hurtling down the worst path possible.