It wasn’t just fans and media members who criticized Bill Belichick’s handling of the Mac Jones-Bailey Zappe controversy.
Patriots players reportedly had an issue with it, too — and still do.
Belichick infamously benched Jones, fresh off an extended injury absence, in favor of Zappe early in New England’s Week 7 loss to the Chicago Bears on “Monday Night Football.” The move played right into the hands of an out-for-blood Gillette Stadium crowd that Belichick either failed to anticipate or didn’t care about.
The coach’s remarks in the days afterward also did nothing to take the heat off of Jones, who suddenly had hoards of people calling for his job. And his wishy-washy comments about Jones on Monday morning likely will ensure speculation continues to surround the sophomore quarterback during his second NFL offseason.
In a lengthy column published Tuesday morning, Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard revealed that Belichick’s treatment of Jones this season is just one of many things that didn’t sit well with Patriots players.
“That Belichick declined to endorse Mac Jones as the starting QB in 2023 likely won’t play well in the locker room,” Bedard wrote. “The players understand that Jones and the offense were put in terrible positions by Belichick this season. Hopefully he takes more accountability for that in private because that’s how you lose players, and many were disillusioned from the start about the changes. Several players were not happy with how Belichick handled Jones with the Bailey Zappe situation, especially against the Bears — there are lingering feelings about that.”
Bedard also referenced one player’s issue with how Belichick revamped the offensive line’s blocking scheme and coaching setup during the offseason.
“Players don’t believe they were put in a position to succeed,” Bedard wrote. “And one believes that if they had kept the same blocking system as last season, the team would have had half the sacks and negative plays that killed the offense this season. That was a coaching decision, and the Krafts are well aware of the situation.”
On the other end of the spectrum, players like Jakobi Meyers have lauded Jones for how he conducted himself during the height of “Zappe Fever.” One thing was clear after Sunday’s season-ending loss in Buffalo: Jones still commands a ton of respect inside the Patriots locker room.
Will all that said, barring offseason moves involving either player, a potential Jones-Zappe quarterback competition potentially could be the top storyline of this year’s training camp.