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With Mac Jones set to miss a decent amount of time with a high ankle sprain, it’s time to sack up with the backup.
New England has veteran Brian Hoyer currently on the roster as well as rookie signal-caller Bailey Zappe, with Hoyer listed as QB2. You obviously only want your backup out there during blowouts, but it looks like we’ll be seeing a depth quarterback under center for at least the next few weeks, possibly longer.
The question, though, is which one?
I thought this was an obvious answer, but given some of the discussions I’ve heard/read and text messages I’ve received, it would appear that Patriots Nation is fairly split on who they’d like to see in relief duty as Jones gets himself back into shape. Some want the experience and knowledge of Hoyer, some want the upside and potential of Zappe. So I figure I’d make a case for, and against, each player, and then leave it in the hands of the rational, intelligent, composed, completely non-reactionary oracle that is The Internet.
Pros: Hoyer is a seasoned veteran with in-game/big game experience and a strong knowledge of the Patriots system. He has been with the Patriots for multiple stints and knows how to run the offense. That the Patriots have brought Hoyer back to serve as that second quarterback multiple times shows that they have faith in him in this role, and situations like this are exactly why you have a player like him on the roster. If there was no intention of starting him if Jones went down, why even waste a roster spot on him? Do you really want Bailey Zappe’s first start to be at Green Bay? Plus, Hoyer represents the best option to allow the rest of the offensive weapons, particularly the receivers, to continue to develop. New England has a bit of a soft schedule coming up after Green Bay, and if he can squeak out 2-3 wins over the next six weeks or so, there’s a chance that Mac Jones can come back to a team with playoff hopes still alive. The AFC looks like it’s going to be a very tight race, so 9-8 could very well get you a playoff spot this year. Hoyer represents the best option for the offense as a whole, he represents the best chance to still have a shot at the postseason, and you know exactly what you’re getting in Brian Hoyer.
Cons: To find the biggest con, look no further than the last sentence of the above paragraph: you know exactly what you’re getting in Brian Hoyer. And what you’re getting is a quarterback with extremely limited upside who hasn’t won a game as a starter since October 2nd, 2016, where he led the Bears to a narrow win over the Lions. Since then, he has gone 0-11 in his last 11 starts. He’s nowhere close to the answer at quarterback and the less time he’s out there, the better. A Brian Hoyer-run offense will be a lot of runs, not a lot of passes, and likely a few mistakes that cost the team the game. You’re just as likely to lose any game as win with him, so what’s the point, really? What are you getting with this guy? You’ll probably lose anyway, may as well take a shot with the rookie.
Pros: Zappe struggled early in the preseason, but got markedly better with each rep and finished his offseason campaign with some nice throws and solid drives. He showed fast improvement, was quick to learn, and now has several months in the system. His ceiling is significantly higher than Hoyer’s, and at least with Zappe you’ll get the chance to see what you’re getting and what you have in him. The Patriots have no chance of making any noise with Hoyer, and Hoyer for sure has the potential to turn the best case scenario into the worst case scenario where Mac Jones misses most of the season and Hoyer wins New England just enough games to keep them out of both playoff contention and a good draft pick in 2023. If Jones misses a lot of time, the season is more or less over anyway, so what do you have to lose? Zappe will get some good experience, if he loses a bunch the Patriots will have a Top 10 draft pick in 2023, and maybe he’ll play well enough to get traded in the offseason to a QB-needy team for another pick. The season may very well be over anyway, so might as well roll with the rookie that at least represents a chance of catching lightning in a bottle. After all, franchise QBs going down and a young, relative unknown coming in and making magic is kind of what we do around these parts.
Cons: Zappe is nothing but a massive question mark, and I honestly can’t think of a reason why the Patriots would go with such a huge unknown at the most important position in professional sports so early in the season. You don’t draft a quarterback in the fourth round when you have Hoyer on the roster with any intention of starting him his rookie year. Poor QB play negatively affects the entire offense, and even with Jones out, the 2022 Patriots can still use this season to grow, develop, gel, and come together as a team. Furthermore, throwing a rookie right into the mix before he’s ready could torpedo his confidence and stymie his career before it even starts; why risk that? We’ve seen through three weeks that this offense has the potential to be explosive, and the last thing you need is a rookie in over his head short-circuiting everything. You also run the risk of pissing off other members of the offense who would likely see their own play suffer under a quarterback who can’t get it done while there’s a proven veteran on the sidelines ready to go. Wanting to start Zappe basically means that you’re taking a chance and feel like you have absolutely nothing to lose, and that simply isn’t true this early in the year.
The third option, of course, is to start Hoyer at first and then pull him for Zappe after a few games if he’s not getting it done... but that’s sort of the perennial option for any quarterback. A QB stinks, you bench him for the next guy. So that’s not much of a debate. There’s always the possibility they trade for a QB or acquire one among a few free agents out there, but that means a guy has to come in and learn a new system in a very short amount of time. I’m not sure I see it happening.
So what do you think? Who would you like to see start in Mac Jones’s absence? Brian Hoyer or Bailey Zappe?
(And for the record, I swear to Tebow if there is a SINGLE comment on this post advocating for bringing back Cam Newton, I’m going to sick Marima on you. And trust me when I say that Mac Jones’s injury is going to look like a Swedish massage compared to what she’s capable of.)