I was expecting something dramatic as the Patriots get down to the 53-man limit. But even I can't lay claim to predicting this:
And I say this as someone who never, for one hot second, rode the Bailey Zappe Hype Train. Not last weekend when I wrote this:
--We also might be having a Bailey Zappe issue. This is probably something best discussed in a blog dedicated to the topic, but he has regressed this year the way Mac Jones did last preseason. At least with Jones, the culprit was obvious. He was an F1 driver being put behind the wheel of an AMC Gremlin. Zappe may or may not be struggling with Bill O'Brien's system - and that ass chewing he got would seem to be a fair indicator it's "may" - but his lack of accuracy is what I find most disturbing. He sailed a 3rd & 6 pass to Matt Sokol on his first attempt. He's constantly dropping down and changing his arm angle like he's vintage Luis Tiant. And in a scheme predicated on making quick decisions, he comes across as uncertain. Hesitation kills. Particularly with the disarray in front of whoever is under center. And Zappe has been dying since OTAs. I don't mean to put too fine a point on it, given the cast of characters and future working stiffs he's had around him. But the concern is real. And funny, but only when you look back at the ginned-up "controversy" over Belichick's refusal to name Jones the official QB1. Like that was ever in doubt.
And not last season, when that train was first leaving the station in the Week 7 game against Chicago, when everyone was talking about him like he's a miracle worker because he put some drives together after Mac Jones was pulled for ineffectiveness:
--The Bears are credited with seven passes defended. At least four of which were at the line of scrimmage. There were swell throws mixed in there, one through several tight windows to DeVante Parker late in the game. Which he then immediately followed up by hitting Dominique Robinson in his meaty, outstretched palm to get picked off. And the soft change up he threw behind Tyquan Thornton, who had two steps on Kyler Gordon, is the first throw they teach toddler quarterbacks not to try. …
--I won't even bother to look at Zappe's stat line. Instead I'll just focus on the 2nd half drive chart. A little minimalist bit of existential angst you can use for your next Poetry Slam that goes like this: "Three plays. Punt. Three plays. Punt. Interception. Interception. End of game. Pain. Sorrow. Death." Consider this my gift to you. (If you win, buy me a latte.) I watched until the end, so I know that whatever Zappe's numbers are, they were padded by a heavy reliance on checkdowns to Rhamondre Stevenson. While trailing by 19 points in the 4th quarter. So the equivalent of laying down a bunt while down 10 runs in the 9th to up your OBP. … I can respect playing it conservative. But you're trying to get your team back in the game, not running for state rep in Alaska.
But nothing bothered me more that Patriots fans immediately jettisoning the pod on Mac Jones after a couple of injury-riddled outings and deciding that Zappe was The Man and it was 2001 Tom Brady in for Drew Bledsoe all over again:
[I]n all these years, I've witnessed some things that would make anyone question their faith in humanity. Brawls ever five minutes. Drunks climbing the 30-foot chain link fence rather than wait in line through the exit, only to barrel roll down the 45 degree embankment head first down to the parking lot. …
I could do this all day. I've got a million of them. But you get my point, that I've seen some shit. But nothing has gone up my keister sideways like seeing Pats fans acting like this. In two decades-plus run of unimaginable success that is beyond the wildest comprehension of the hopeless, downtrodden masses we used to be, acting entitled.
Chanting for Bailey Zappe when Mac Jones has had a couple of 3 & outs is neither rational nor logical. It's acting like 20,000 or so Veruka Salts. Meaning it's getting what you want - a promising young quarterback to replace the great one you lost, getting a phenomenal rookie season out of him where he takes you back to the playoffs after only missing one year - and as soon as he struggles coming back from his the first injury of his career, stomping your foot, insisting that he's not what you want and demanding that dadday give you the other, better thing.
It's beneath the behavior of a fanbase that's seen an unprecedented amount of winning. Beneath contempt. Worse, it's fucking embarrassing. …
Let this be a wake up call to the Real Housewives of Foxboro to be better than this. Better than falling in love with the next, shiny new thing after like 10 quarters of quality but highly managed quarterbacking. Zappe might very well be a Pro Bowler some day. Jones already has been. Let them both develop and not make us all look like imbeciles in front of the whole country once a rookie out of Western Kentucky inevitably starts playing like a rookie out of Western Kentucky.
I didn't want to be right on this one. Which is to say, I didn't want to be THIS right on this one. What I saw out of Bailey Zappe from his first week of camp as a rookie, through those performances last year and right up until Friday night was … promise. Nothing more. A guy who threw 61 touchdowns in a season at Western Kentucky and had the potential to develop into an NFL quarterback. You buffoons who immediately turned your lonely eyes to him after a couple of good drives need to take an accounting of yourselves, because I can't do it for you. And I can't demean you any more than you did yourselves.
In the meantime, we have to figure out who the actual backup is. And for me to let you know if it ever gets old being right all the time. So far, it hasn't.