clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sunday Patriots Notes: The 2021 quarterback class appears to be at a crossroads already

Notes and thoughts on the Patriots and the rest of the NFL.

Syndication: The Record Kevin R. / USA TODAY NETWORK

We are right between free agency and the draft, and yet the NFL news cycle rarely sleeps. So, in order to clean out the notebook from last week as it relates to the New England Patriots in particular, please enjoy this week’s edition of our Sunday column.

Today, our Sunday Patriots Notes will take a look back at 2021 (quarterback class), 2022 (Patriots draft class) and 2023 (Patriots Hall of Fame), among other topics.

The 2021 quarterback class appears to be at a crossroads already: Headlined by first overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson, the quarterback group was seen as one of the deepest in recent memory in 2021. Two years in, however, it faces more questions than answers and appears to be at a crucial spot heading into 2023.

1-1 Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars): After a forgettable and at time chaotic rookie campaign under Urban Meyer, Lawrence started to show his potential in Year 2. With Doug Pederson now serving as Jacksonville’s head coach, there are now questions about the 23-year-old: he is one of the most talented young passers in the game today, and should only get better while establishing himself as a true franchise QB.

1-2 Zach Wilson (New York Jets): Compared to Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Pick No. 2 in 2021 has struggled mightily his first two seasons in the league, and the Jets are now actively trying to upgrade at the position: they are expected to acquire long-time Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers via trade. Given Rodgers’ age — he will turn 40 in December — he is no long-term solution, though, which means Wilson might just still get a chance. So far, however, things are not looking good.

1-3 Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers): San Francisco paid a king’s ransom to move from No. 12 to No. 3 in order to pick Trey Lance, but the investment has not paid many dividends so far. In fact, Lance has started just four games while barely completing half of his passes. With rookie Brock Purdy also looking quite solid in 2022, there is no guarantee Lance will be handed the starting spot in Year 3 as well. 49ers general manager John Lynch said so himself, when he proclaimed Purdy the current “leader in the clubhouse” for that job.

1-11 Justin Fields (Chicago Bears): Fields has had a weird first two seasons in the NFL and never quite seemed to reach the potential he showed at Ohio State. Could he still get there, especially now with some stability in the coaching department around him? Absolutely, but he has yet to put everything together. As opposed to Zach Wilson and Trey Lance, however, he is guaranteed a starting spot in 2023 and the Bears are committed to him.

1-15 Mac Jones (New England Patriots): The Patriots’ starting quarterback the last two seasons, Jones was clearly the most successful rookie QB in 2021 before taking a step back in 2022: a change at offensive coordinator negatively impacted the entire offensive operation, and the quarterback was not immune to the struggles. The team acknowledged the problem by bringing in veteran OC Bill O’Brien. Now, the pressure is on Jones to show that he can in fact be the franchise player New England brought him in to be.

3-67 Davis Mills (Houston Texans): Mills started 26 games over his first two seasons in the NFL, but the Texans are considered a prime candidate to add one of the top prospects available at No. 2 overall this year. While the former third-rounder had his moments, it appears his time as Houston’s QB1 will come to an end sooner rather than later.

While these six players are the most prominent representatives of the 2021 quarterback class, the group as a whole extends beyond them. That said, Kyle Trask (2-64; Tampa Bay), Kellen Mond (3-66; Minnesota), Ian Book (4-133; New Orleans) and Sam Ehlinger (6-218; Indianapolis) have not moved the needles for their respective teams so far. Little is expected to change for them in 2023.

The Mac Jones rumors are not a banner moment for sports media: The biggest topic of debate in New England last week was the status of quarterback Mac Jones. A report by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Floria mentioned that the Patriots had “shopped” him to other teams this offseason, and what followed was, quite frankly, not a banner moment for sports media.

First, you had several beat writers releasing follow-up reports that disputed the notion that Jones was on the trade block. Then, Florio himself started to backpedal and later claimed during an interview with WEEI that “[Patriots head coach Bill Belichick] may never trade him” and that “I don’t know if he was really serious about doing it, or what message he was trying to send.”

Apart from those contradictory remarks, you had follow-up narratives take up a life of their own. The best and most head-scratching example came via the Dan Patrick Show. The host claimed that he “do[es] think that locker room is split” before sharing a quote from a former Patriot he had apparently spoken to: “There is a lot of support for Bailey Zappe” — a rather innocuous statement.

That blend of opinion and reporting was picked up by professional content aggregators and turned into sensationalist headlines. Bro Bible wrote that the locker room is “seemingly split”, while NESN also ran with the “split” locker room narrative. WEEI took it even further, with The Greg Hill Show claiming there would be “all-out war” between the two supposed fractions.

So, where does the Patriots quarterback position stand? Only those inside Gillette Stadium know; maybe only Bill Belichick alone knows what has transpired and how much truth to all the talk really is.

This is not about any rumors though — we have previously written about them here, here and here — but rather how the media landscape is a dangerous one. Being first is oftentimes seen as more important than being accurate, which makes it imperative to follow trustworthy outlets and reporters instead of buying into narratives pushed by those who do not fall into that category

Well-aware of that difference, Pats Pulpit aims to be in that first category.

Dante Scarnecchia explains what ‘assistant head coach’ means in New England: Former Patriots offensive line coach and soon-to-be member of the team’s Hall of Fame Dante Scarnecchia, appeared on WEEI this week to talk about a variety of issues. While the Mac Jones rumors mentioned above also were part of the discussion, a much more interesting bit came when he was asked about a title he previously held: assistant head coach.

Scarnecchia served in that capacity between 2000 and 2013, and was the last person to hold the title. With Joe Judge seemingly in line to get it in 2023, however, he shared his thoughts on what it would really entail.

Long story short: not much.

“There was only a couple of times, unfortunate times, when Bill’s dad passed away, and he would say like, ‘I have to go and I want you to chair the meeting this morning and get in front of the team.’” Scarnecchia told The Greg Hill Show. “And then another time, when Bill had to go early to the first Super Bowl against the Rams because we didn’t have an off-week that year — that was the year of 9/11 and all the rest of it. So, he and the team went ahead and all the assistants stayed behind. He gave me some responsibilities for that, but there are not many of those things.

“It’s a title that you have, and the second time, when I came back, I didn’t have the title and I was doing what I was doing the first time. So, it’s not a big deal. It’s something that’s bestowed upon you, and when it comes up you help where you can. Most of the time it doesn’t, so you just rock along as an assistant coach.”

Early reviews of the Patriots’ 2022 draft class are positive: The success of a team’s draft class cannot be fully evaluated until several years down the road, but the early reviews of the Patriots’ haul in 2022 is a positive one. According to a recent analysis by Pro Football Focus’ Timo Riske, the team had one of the better draft classes in the league last spring:

Timo Riske

Things can and will change over the coming years, but for now New England can be happy about what it brought in. Several players — including guard Cole Strange, cornerbacks Marcus Jones and Jack Jones, quarterback Bailey Zappe — showed considerable promise, not to mention an undrafted class that includes possible future special teams centerpiece Brenden Schooler.

Several players are in consideration for the Patriots Hall of Fame: The Patriots’ Hall of Fame committee met this week to discuss potential nominees for 2023. According to one person present in that room, ESPN’s Mike Reiss, multiple players were mentioned: DT Julius Adams, OL Pete Brock, TE Russ Francis, G Logan Mankins, S Lawyer Milloy, K John Smith, FB Mosi Tatupu, LB Mike Vrabel and WR Wes Welker on the players side, as well as Chuck Fairbanks and Bill Parcells as coaches.

In addition, the aforementioned Dante Scarnecchia was surprised by team owner Robert Kraft; through the power of executive privilege, Kraft made Scarnecchia a Hall of Fame selection as well.