Bailey Zappe played a lot of football in college. Spending time at Houston Baptist and Western Kentucky, he started a combined 50 games between his 2018 and 2021 seasons and posted some eye-popping numbers: Zappe threw for 14,433 yards, 135 touchdowns and 40 interceptions in that four-year span.
His NFL career, however, started on the bench. After getting selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft, Zappe served as the New England Patriots’ QB3 behind starter Mac Jones and veteran backup Brian Hoyer.
Ideally, Zappe would not have gotten anywhere close to the field this regular season. Of course, we all know what happened next.
Jones suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3 that forced him to miss the following week’s contest against the Green Bay Packers. Hoyer took over as the starter, but he went down with a concussion on his second series — paving the way for Zappe to take over.
Obviously, there are easier ways to make your debut than getting thrown into the fire on the road against Aaron Rodgers and one of the best defenses in the league. However, Zappe accounted well for himself and was able to keep his nerves in check.
He later credited his teammates for helping him with that.
“Of course it was exciting, it was my first time stepping on an NFL field in the regular season,” Zappe told WEEI’s Merloni, Fauria & Mego on Monday. “But I really just want to credit my teammates for keeping me calm, keeping me cool and collected; just letting me know that this is just another football game, we’re out here to play football.
“Just continue to do my job, get the ball to the playmakers, let them do what they do best — that was kind of my mindset when I stepped foot on the field. Do what I do, do my job, and just go from there.”
Zappe pointed to one teammate in particular helping him keep his poise: starting right tackle Isaiah Wynn was tasked with helping the rookie stay level-headed throughout his time on the field.
“I told Isaiah when I went in, just to every once in a while look at me and be like, ‘It’s alright, we’re playing ball.’ And he did that almost every other play; he’ll look at me, ‘Alright. You’re good. Let’s go,’” the young QB recalled. “Trent [Brown] did it, [David Andrews] did it. I like that. The relationships that we have, this team is a big brotherhood. We’re a big family and I give a lot of credit to those guys helping me stay calm.”
While Zappe was not asked to do too much while operating a limited version of the New England offense, he generally was effective. Completing 10 of 15 pass attempts for 99 yards and a touchdown, he helped the Patriots keep the game close and eventually take the Packers to overtime.
His teammates’ performance and support played a role in that. Zappe’s own preparation during the week leading up to the game also cannot be disregarded, though. Head coach Bill Belichick said so himself.
“I think we all know what a backup quarterback’s potential job and role is,” Belichick told reporters during a media conference call on Monday. “Bailey knows it, we know it, everybody that plays that position knows it. That’s what happened and he stepped in. He was well prepared. I thought, generally, he handled himself well. Certainly, things he can improve on. We’ll work on. But, I thought he did a solid job.”
Zappe also pointed to his preparation on Monday.
“As far as me, my teammates and coaches, we’ve prepared really hard during the week leading up to the game,” he said. “I think that’s what translates onto the field, being calm and cool and collected. Honestly, for me that’s being prepared, watching film, practicing, going through every rep, treating every rep in practice as if it’s a game rep. That just leads to being calm on the field.”
The 23-year-old mentioned that his preparatory process did not change much with Jones absent and Hoyer taking over the starting role. Heading into Week 5 and the upcoming game against the Detroit Lions, however, that might very well change.
Not only is Jones still nursing his ankle injury, Hoyer’s status is also uncertain given his concussion. As a result, there is a real chance that Zappe will continue to see a lot more action than was initially planned when he was brought aboard in the spring.
If the game in Green Bay is an indication, though, his supporting cast will do its best to help him make the most out of a difficult situation.