The New England Patriots started their Monday night game against the Chicago Bears with Mac Jones under center, but after three series he was pulled in favor of backup quarterback Bailey Zappe. The decision was a noteworthy one, and one that came as a surprise to some portions of the Patriots roster.
According to Bill Belichick, however, those who needed to know about the pre-planned rotation at the position knew. The New England head coach said as much while appearing on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Tuesday morning.
“I talked to the quarterbacks, talked to the leaders of the team,” Belichick said. “Everybody knew what the plan was. I mean, not every single person, obviously. I wouldn’t talk to every person about another player’s role in the game. They all have their jobs to do. But there was no lack of communication.”
After the Patriots’ 33-14 loss against the Bears, several players mentioned that they were surprised when Jones was removed from the game in the early second quarter. He and Zappe, meanwhile, were briefed that the two would rotate in and out of the game.
“I think we had a good plan, as always, just to go throughout the week and figure out what we want to do for the game,” Jones said during his postgame presser. “Coach Belichick was very good about communication and felt like I was good to play, and we had a good plan there, and obviously didn’t play well enough there.”
For Jones, the game against the Bears was his first game action in a month. He had suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3 against Baltimore, and was unable to appear in the subsequent three games.
During his absence, Zappe emerged as the stand-in and led the team to back-to-back victories heading into Monday night. However, the fourth-round rookie started the game on the bench before entering for the Patriots’ fourth offensive possession — much to the surprise of some of his teammates.
While that information had apparently not reached all levels of the roster, both Jones and Zappe were aware of the general outline of the plan.
“Coach Belichick did a great job communicating to both me and Mac,” Zappe said on Tuesday. “I think both me and Mac, what we want best is we want to win. We want what’s best for the team. I’ve been preparing, like I have, that I was one play away and I’m going to do that for the rest of the year. ...
“I was going in whenever he told me or whenever my number was called. That’s when I would go in. I was open to whatever he decided.”
Zappe ended up playing 34 snaps compared to Jones’ 18. Both QBs struggled against Chicago, though, tossing a combined three interceptions and being unable to generate much momentum outside of Zappe’s first two drives.