When the New England media gathered for the only Patriots’ practice of the bye this week, a familiar face had his hands under center David Andrews butt and apparently still on the starting QB job.
Seemingly all the football world and nearly every resident of Patriot Nation saw Mac Jones’ latest benching -- this time in a one-score game in the closing minutes of a loss to the Colts in Germany – as a sign that the former first-round pick had finally and mercifully lost his three-year hold on the starting spot for Bill Belichick and Bill O’Brien’s offense.
And certainly the extended viewing allowed to the media to see Jones working with the rest of the usual starting lineup could be nothing more than a Belichick red herring. After all, something certainly smelled fishy with reporters getting a view of more than the usual stretching and positional drills.
But, couldn’t there also be another possibility?
After the dust settled from the emotional benching in Frankfurt after Jones threw maybe the ugliest pass any of us has ever seen for his latest interception, is it not at least feasible that cooler heads prevailed?
Because while there is legitimate doubt as to whether Jones should start at quarterback for the 2-8 Patriots in their post-bye battle with the equally-dismal Giants, there is another equally legitimate assessment of the New England quarterback situation that at least as to be acknowledged.
Sadly, Jones may still very much be the Patriots’ best option at the quarterback position.
If you haven’t tossed your digital device aside in discuss, stick with us.
Jones is, after all, the only current member of the New England QB depth chart that hasn’t been cut at least once this NFL season.
Recall that when the season started, both backup Bailey Zappe and undrafted rookie athlete Malik Cunningham were cut at the end of training camp. Jones was the only quarterback on the initial roster, a far cry from Belichick’s early days in Foxborough when he kept four quarterbacks on the roster, including some late-round pick named Tom Brady.
And Will Grier? Well, the journeyman backup who’s older than Patrick Mahomes has been with multiple teams this fall. He’s three-plus seasons from the last time he stepped on an NFL field for the Panthers, two starts in which he combined to throw for 228 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. Talk about losing efforts.
No, Jones is not a good NFL quarterback right now. Probably needs to step up to even be a bad NFL quarterback of late.
No, he probably should not be starting NFL games.
But, he also just might be the best option the lowly Patriots have at a position that the team has mismanaged badly in recent years as it’s failed to develop its supposed franchise first-round option and yet hasn’t created any worthy depth, either.
When Peyton Manning got hurt with the Colts and Indy went down the “Suck for Luck” road in 2011, Belichick described the situation as “irresponsible.”
Well, New England cutting all its backup QBs, not finding a suitable option thereafter and being stuck with a broken, battered, beaten Jones as still the only real option on the depth chart could be described the very same way.
Sure, most of us want to see someone else take the snaps when New England travels to New York for Week 12.
Grier is the guy! I’ve never seen him fail and he once threw for like 900 yards in a high school playoff game. Can’t be any worse than Mac.
Cunningham deserves a shot! He was pretty impressive that one drive in the final quarter of the final preseason game. And his athleticism will work behind a still-suspect offensive line. A true youth movement.
Zappe Hour! Zappe didn’t get a fair shake a year ago, part of the mismanagement of the position and Jones. He’s at least earned another chance to start games, as he did successfully for a couple weeks as a rookie.
Any devil other than the one we’ve watched fail through 10 weeks of work has to be better, right?
No, actually. While any team could have claimed Zappe or Cunningham and did not – and all had a shot at Grier – the reality is that if Jones were cut today, he would be claimed. By multiple teams. He’s still a former first-round talent. Still a guy who led his team to the playoffs as a rookie.
Sadly and revealingly, Jones still might be the best option Belichick has for the Patriots’ QB spot.
A quick Google of the phrase “change for the sake of change” returns nothing but negative results. It’s a bad plan of attack in business, leadership or pretty much any walk of life. Likely including football.
None of us seemingly wants to see Jones as the Patriots’ starting QB coming out of the bye against the Giants.
But none of us wants to admit that he’s probably still the best guy for the job, either. As sad as that painful reality may be.
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