Will Patriots' Bill Belichick swap Mac Jones for Bailey Zappe?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots met Tuesday during the bye week, but coach Bill Belichick didn't make an announcement to the team about his quarterback plans.

As Belichick said would be the case, players relayed that the time was spent going through corrections from Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, which left uncertainty at quarterback hovering over the locker room.

Some players privately said it would be nice to have clarity. Perhaps that comes Wednesday when players return for more meetings and the lone practice of the bye.

One line of thinking is that Belichick couldn't possibly turn back to Mac Jones as the starting quarterback after pulling him Sunday late in the fourth quarter following one of the worst interceptions of Jones' three-year career. Instead of giving the skittish Jones an immediate chance to redeem himself with 1:52 remaining with the game still in the balance, Belichick believed backup Bailey Zappe gave the team a better chance to win.

If Belichick felt that way then, why would it be different now?

But another line of thinking is that Belichick -- after reviewing the tape that coaches say is vital to have a better understanding of what unfolded -- acknowledges that perhaps he reacted emotionally to such a poor mistake by Jones.

The quarterback was under heavy duress throughout the game, and he crumbled under the pressure at times. But still, pulling him in such a critical situation and turning to Zappe, who spent the afternoon standing on the frigid sideline and then was asked to lead the team to victory, was viewed as extreme by some coaches and executives around the NFL.

Asked during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI if he's been told he's still the starter, Jones said Tuesday: "We haven't talked about that. We watched the game film and talked about plans for the bye week. The bye week is a great time to work on things you can do better, so that's what I'm going to do."

Meanwhile, inside the Patriots' locker room Tuesday, captain Deatrich Wise Jr. expressed his support for the embattled quarterback, a fellow captain.

"We still believe in him," Wise said. "Right now, there are a lot of tough things going on, but he's doing a fantastic job handling all the criticism that comes his way. We as a team support him, are behind him and will continue to be behind him until the season is done."

As Belichick and the coaching staff considers whether to demote Jones for the team's next game, Nov. 26 against the New York Giants, a key factor in any decision is who they would be turning to.

Zappe, the top backup, has been called into action three times this season and is 10-of-25 for 104 yards with no touchdowns and one interception -- the final offensive play Sunday.

"Bailey has prepared well every week. I think he stepped in and did the best he could," Belichick said. "Was it perfect? No. Were there some positive things? Yes."

The Patriots waived Zappe at the end of training camp, allowing him to be claimed by any team, which reflects how they viewed him at that time. The team also claimed former Panthers quarterback Matt Corral and initially had him over Zappe on the depth chart before Corral left the team.

In 2022, Zappe was 2-0 as a starter when filling in for the injured Jones, as fans rallied behind him and the surge of energy he provided the team.

Players say coaches sometimes turn to Zappe in practice, which cuts into Jones' repetitions.

Meanwhile, No. 3 quarterback Will Grier is more of an unknown. He was signed off the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad Sept. 23.

"He's improving every week in terms of understanding, and working with his teammates, and running the scout team and executing the plays he has an opportunity to," Belichick said of Grier. "It's just that there are not a lot of opportunities for that, right now, the third position. Which is where he's been."