It increasingly looks like the Patriots are heading head first into a quarterback controversy. The emergence of Bailey Zappe who replaced Brian Hoyer, who replaced Mac Jones during his injury has many recalling the Brady/Bledsoe battle which kick started the Patriots dynasty.
Just to clear one thing up, Brian Hoyer isn’t part of this controversy.
Quarterback controversies are nothing new to the NFL but they’re still fairly rare as teams focus on ensuring one QB is ready for each Sunday. In the early 70s, the Cowboys flip flopped between Craig Morton and Roger Staubach, sometimes in the same game where the QBs would take turns leading a drive. Staubach has recalled in later interviews how difficult it was and eventually, Tom Landry made the decision to start him and trade Morton to the Broncos. For Staubach, the rest is history as he went on to win multiple Super Bowl titles and a place in the Hall of Fame
In the late 80s and early 90s, Steve Young was understudy to Joe Montana and had played a number of games after Montana had been injured. The controversy was heightened as Young was left handed whereas Montana was right handed, making it even tougher for receivers to adjust mid game when Young did come into games. Eventually, the 49ers moved on from the legend that was Montana and Young became the starter, leading the 49ers to their 5th Super Bowl win in 1994.
But in New England, it’s different. Both Zappe and Jones are very young – Jones in his second year whereas Zappe is still a rookie. The speed at which Jones was pulled out from last nights game would indicate that Belichick perhaps favours Zappe and is looking for a reason to replace Jones permanently.
The old adage goes that ‘if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one’. Mathematically it’s on point. But the wider point is that if a coach can’t decide who is the starter during the week then two gameplans have to be written. Training reps are split between both quarterbacks, limiting their time and the teams time to get used to them. It takes twice as long for team mates to get used to each quarterback – especially in areas of the game like snapping the ball, handing it off to players and receiving passes.
The Patriots at the moment, are not a good team and they can ill afford to waste limited practice sessions!
We do talk a lot about the need for backup quarterbacks to be better prepared – the case in point was that of Jimmy Garoppolo. The issue is that the league and the NFLPA continually reduce both practice time and pre-season games (don’t be shocked to see pre-season games dropped entirely during the next CBA). With such limited time, coaches aren’t able to schedule enough time with their starters, let alone devote time to backups to ready them should they be needed. Realistically, the only way to improve the situation is to increase practice time, but limit how much each player is allowed to, giving more reps to a wider variety of team members. This may have to be bargained for by increasing the roster sizes though. Not an easy negotiation but given the increases in starting quarterbacks being injured, one that needs serious consideration