By Lorenzo Recupero
Surely there’s an ongoing discussion gong down in the New England Patriots’ executive offices following the dominant 38-15 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon.
You won’t hear it from Bill Belichick in any report or post-game presser, but there IS a quarterback controversy brewing in Foxborough, MA.
And if rookie QB Bailey Zappe continues playing like he has over the past three games, his success may spill over and carry him into the starting gig for the Patriots.
In the win over Cleveland, Zappe’s third game under center and second as a starter, he put up 309 yards through the air to go with two touchdown passes. He completed 24 of 34 pass attempts to cap a phenomenal performance in which he earned a quarterback rating of 118.40.
Now, to gain some perspective on just how special his latest effort was, let’s compare Zappe’s last start to recent performances from a couple NFL legends. On Sunday, Tom Brady (87.8) and Aaron Rodgers (73.8) both combined for a lower rating (80.80) in their losses, respectively.
Week 6 in the NFL was like a revealing of the new guard, chain of command in the league in some regards and Zappe led the charge.
Simplified-for-a-rookie playbook or not, Zappe has all the quintessential qualities needed at QB to lead the Pats.
He has the legs and quickness to create time to allow receivers to get open, arm strength to create plays deep downfield, and most importantly the accuracy to connect with his receivers, as was evident in Sunday’s victory. Some might say he’s an even more accurate passer than Mac Jones, the team’s starter to open the season.
It goes without saying the best leader for a team should help others excel, and Zappe did that for his receivers Sunday, especially his tight ends, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, who have been taking heat for slow starts to the season before snapping the slump in the win over Cleveland. Henry had his best game of the season with 4 catches, 61 yards and his first TD of the year. Smith reeled in 2 catches for 61 yards, including a season-high 53-yarder.
So the burning question now is this: Should the Patriots sit Zappe when opening-day starter Mac Jones is able to return from the ankle injury he sustained Week 3?
Granted, it’s just a three-game-ish sample from Zappe, and some might say that’s not enough to create a stir in the coaches’ pot, but maybe a closer look at the numbers at hand will make it clearer for those still considering the idea of swapping ingredients at the most important position in football.
In two games as starter, Zappe helped the Patriots win both matchups while amassing 596 yards, 4 TDs and 1 interception. Which means his career 4:1 TD to interception ratio is better than Jones’.
In three games as starter this season, Jones has thrown 2 TDs to go with 5 interceptions. Jones has a 4:3 career TD to interception ratio (24 TDs, 18 interceptions).
Zappe has a career completion percentage of 72.9 compared to Jones’ 67.3 career completion percentage.
In 20 games as the Pats quarterback, Jones has thrown for 300 or more yards three times. In just three games at QB, Zappe already achieved that feat one time.
As the saying goes, numbers don’t lie. And Zappe’s numbers are no exception.
But before you sit back and ponder who should start for the Patriots moving forward, let’s end this chat with one tidbit floating around the NFL conversation mill this week:
In the Super Bowl era (since 1967), Zappe is the only rookie quarterback to win his first two starts while posting a 100+ passer rating.