New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave a classic response when quizzed about Mac Jones’ future as starting quarterback with Bailey Zappe waiting in the wings.
In a brutal defeat to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Patriots quarterback Jones threw for 112 yards on a paltry 41.9% completion as the offence toiled en route to a 30-24 defeat. Receiver Jakobi Meyers will undoubtedly take the headlines for the inexplicable way the Patriots lost the game, but the New England offence possess plenty of question marks going forwards.
According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA (defence-adjusted value over average) efficiency basis, the Pats offence is 25th while it is ranked 25th and 17th in standard total yardage and scoring respectively. The offence has struggled as the defence has impressed, meaning the unbalanced Patriots sit perfectly balanced at 7-7 with three games remaining in 2022.
Jones has been heavily blamed, which could be considered unfair given the inability shown by Matt Patricia to effectively call offensive plays. Regardless, the 2021 first round pick has stagnated in his sophomore season and many have called for rookie Bailey Zappe to return to the team.
When asked if he plans to continue with Mac Jones as the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, Belichick said: “The plan is to try to beat Cincinnati.”
The comment comes eight years after the Patriots franchise embraced Belichick’s ‘we’re onto Cincinnati’ quip as a rallying cry. Following a Week 4 41-14 blowout defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs, Belichick responded to reporters' questions by saying ‘we're on to Cincinnati’ five times, letting everyone know that he had moved on from the loss to the Chiefs.
Belichick is clearly not willing to address the simmering quarterback tension, nor does he want to commit to either Jones or Zappe. Perhaps Jones will use it to elevate his play to new heights.
After reaching the playoffs in his rookie season, Jones has undoubtedly struggled this campaign and ranks 29th in the NFL in Expected Points Added/Completion Percentage Over Expected composite. Through 11 games, Jones has thrown for 2,310 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions, while his passer rating has dropped 10 points since last season to sit at 82.6.
Following their loss to the Raiders, the 7-7 Patriots could now miss out on the postseason for the second time in three years, so they will be desperate for a win when they welcome the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals to Foxborough on Saturday.