Now that the New England Patriots have “mutually” parted ways with Bill Belichick, all sorts of behind-the-scenes intel have surfaced regarding the atrocious roller-coaster season.

When Belichick finally relented and benched Mac Jones in favor of Bailey Zappe after a 2-9 start to the season, everything appeared fine between the two quarterbacks on the front lines. Evidently, that was a facade, according to a lengthy report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.

Things came undone with (Joe) Judge and (Matt) Patricia running the offense in 2022. But most Patriots people felt like, with (Bill) O’Brien aboard, the “real” Mac, the one from ’21, who could at least drive the bus at quarterback, would resurface.

Instead, Jones came back with a confidence that some teammates, coaches and staff saw as false bravado. It was bolstered with Zappe struggling and the team deciding not to trade up for Kentucky’s Will Levis in April, which had been at least a point of discussion.

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Jones’s irrational courage would, in time, crater, with crushing mistakes that showed up in early losses to the Saints and Cowboys repeated in practice—to the point where teammates on defense were calling them out. And Zappe kept fighting to show a staff that had determined he wasn’t good enough—cutting him in August and bringing him back after—that he could do the job, smirking to coaches as he completed more difficult throws on the practice field.

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The tension really percolated before this season though. According to Breer, the two signal callers were rather frosty during the 2022 season.

The competition made things icy in the quarterbacks’ room, too. In 2022, Zappe, who was a rookie, would watch tape in the receivers’ room just to get out of there, according to sources.

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After Belichick and the Patriots parted ways on Thursday, another report came out that the legendary coach “raised the idea” of trading Jones prior to the season. With Jered Mayo now at the helm, it’s unknown what direction and which quarterback will lead the Patriots next season. With New England securing the No. 3 draft pick, it’s quite possible they will go with a completely different player in the vital position.

Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images