Bailey Zappe’s initial release had many shocked that the second-year player might have played his last snap in New England.
However, the Patriots signed Zappe back to the practice squad after he cleared waivers, but there was an initial report that stated the Patriots were still looking for a veteran backup for Mac Jones.
Do the Patriots really dislike Zappe? I get the sense that they still like him in the building, however, he was viewed as a “Matt Patricia guy” and a selection to fulfill the Kyle Shanahan-style offense that was a failure last season with first-time offensive coordinators trying to implement it.
Pierre Strong Jr. was another one of those picks that was supposed to thrive in that outside zone scheme, but he was recently traded to the Cleveland Browns for offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr. It is possible the Patriots could be trying to right the ship internally with those picks from 2022, which are no longer deemed scheme fits in Zappe, Strong, and yes, Tyquan Thornton, too.
The Patriots still believe Cole Strange is a fit in the new offense and can adapt, even if he is more suited for the agile offensive line system Kyle Shanahan and many west coast offenses deploy.
There is still some belief that Zappe can develop the parts of his game to be a capable backup in the system, but the Patriots likely want to find a veteran quarterback who can step in now behind Jones to mentor him and jump in if needed due to injury.
After what we saw all summer, Zappe is not capable of doing that right now and would benefit from developmental reps. Zappe’s game, in its current state, is more suited for single-read offenses that are predetermined, which is very similar to those QB-friendly systems Shanahan runs.
If Zappe is more QB3 than anything, who could the Patriots bring in that fits the scheme, is good enough to run it in a pinch, and is mature enough to be comfortable as a mentor and backup?
Colt McCoy, Free Agent
Colt McCoy is a 12-year NFL veteran that has played for the Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Commanders, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. With over 36 starts in his career, McCoy has the experience necessary to run an NFL offense in a spot-start here or there.
He has experience in Brian Daboll’s offense, which is similar to O’Brien’s when the two overlapped in the early days of McCoy’s career. With McCoy mostly being a career backup, he wouldn’t make Jones uncomfortable, and he should provide mentorship.
Notable quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and even Cam Newton have praised the presence of an older veteran signal-caller behind them as one of the most important parts of their development. Mahomes had Chad Henne. Josh Allen had Derek Anderson and Matt Barkley behind him, and Cam Newton also enjoyed a long career with Anderson as his backup.
McCoy could be the perfect mentor for Jones and even Zappe, similar to Brian Hoyer in 2021 and 2022. But this time, McCoy would be ready to go if needed as the No. 2 option. Having that veteran presence is not something to overlook when it comes to the development of a young quarterback, regardless of what team they’re on. They need mentors and to be developed properly.
AJ McCarron, Free Agent
AJ McCarron is a 32-year-old free agent, most recently playing in the XFL. His decision to play for the XFL came after a successful eight-year career as an NFL backup.
In 2021, he tore his ACL, and rightfully so, his priorities shifted. He could still be an above average NFL backup today, but he chose the XFL and less money, so that his children could see their dad play football live and not holding a clipboard on the sidelines.
However, as time has passed, McCarron might be swayed with a handsome contract to become the Patriots’ long-term veteran backup. McCarron would see game action in the event of injury, and the former Alabama quarterback would be able to mentor another Alabama alum in Jones.
McCarron would also have an opportunity to be coached by Bill Belichick, which is something his kids might also feel is pretty cool to see, even if he is holding a clipboard. He has run similar offenses as the one in New England in the past, and he would immediately patch up the QB2 role.
Case Keenum, Texans
Case Keenum played under coach O’Brien in Houston as a backup quarterback. He would make a seamless transition from the Texans to an offense that might suit his skills better. Houston just took C.J. Stroud at No. 2 overall in the 2023 NFL draft, and they also took Davis Mills in 2021 and apparently like him as their QB2.
If the Patriots wish to call up an old friend in Texans general manager Nick Caserio, the groundwork is there for a deal that could send Keenum to the Patriots. Keenum has made over 64 starts in his career, and he’d provide the ideal balance between mentor and high upside backup for Jones.