Bill Belichick watches as Mac Jones runs through a drill during New England Patriots training camp in Foxboro. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald (Thursday,July 27, 2023).
FOXBORO — The Giants will start an undrafted rookie quarterback who’s still living with his parents this week in Tommy DeVito, and they arguably have a better situation at the position than the Patriots.
Bill Belichick would not name a starting quarterback Tuesday morning in his first news conference since the Patriots’ bye week.
“I’ve told all of the players the same thing: ‘Be ready to go.’ Hopefully, they will be,” Belichick said.
The “players” are Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, Will Grier and undrafted rookie quarterback/wide receiver Malik Cunningham.
Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien made it seem Monday morning that the decision would be based on how those players perform this week in practice.
“It will be based on what I think is best for the team,” Belichick said Tuesday.
It sounds like Belichick does not intend to tip his hand about the starting quarterback until the Patriots play in Week 12.
“I’ll let you know on Sunday,” he said.
Patriots players gave non-answers when asked if they’ve been informed who will start at quarterback against the Giants.
“I’m just trying to focus on what I’ve got to do Sunday,” tight end Hunter Henry said.
“I’ve asked all of the quarterbacks, work with them all week,” center David Andrews said. “You never know what’s going to happen during the week. …
“I work with all of the quarterbacks just in case something ever happens.”
Reporters were only permitted to watch individual drills in practice Tuesday. Mac Jones took the first reps throwing to wide receivers. Zappe was the only other quarterback to throw during the open drill. Grier didn’t take any passing reps, and Cunningham didn’t participate at quarterback or wide receiver.
Jones was benched for Zappe in Week 10 after throwing an ugly red-zone interception while trailing 10-6 with 4:25 left in the game. Zappe, entering the contest with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter, tossed his own interception into triple coverage with no pressure bearing down, clinching the game for the Colts with 36 seconds on the clock from Indianapolis’ 40-yard line.
It was the third time Jones has been pulled for Zappe this season, but it came under different circumstances. The score was out of hand when Jones was benched for Zappe against the Cowboys and Saints, and Belichick confirmed after those games that Jones would continue to be the team’s starter.
Belichick wouldn’t commit to Jones as his future starter after the Week 10 loss to the Colts, last week during the bye or on Tuesday morning.
Jones has led the Patriots to a 2-8 record this season while completing 65.4% of his passes for 2,031 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s 26th out of 34 qualified quarterbacks with a 40.1 QBR and ranks 28th with a 59.0 PFF grade and 30th with a -0.114 expected points added (EPA) per play.
Zappe, who went 2-0 while filling in for Jones last season, seems like a logical fit to take over, but he’s had a rough 2023 campaign dating back to the summer. He struggled in training camp and the preseason and was waived during roster cuts. After being passed over by all 31 teams, he cleared waivers and initially re-signed to the Patriots’ practice squad before signing to the 53-man roster head of Week 1.
In three appearances in mop-up duty, he has an 18.6 QBR, 41.3 PFF grade and -.438 EPA per play. A source said Zappe’s performance has not been any better in practice. If he had it, he likely would have already been starting over Jones.
Grier was selected by the Panthers in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of West Virginia. He was cut by the Cowboys after an impressive preseason and signed to the Bengals’ practice squad prior to Week 1. The Patriots signed Grier off of the Panthers’ practice squad in late September. He’s been the team’s emergency third quarterback in all but one game since joining the Patriots. He was inactive Week 6 against the Raiders when Cunningham was Jones’ backup, and Zappe served as the emergency third QB. Grier hasn’t started an NFL game since 2019. The 28-year-old completed 76.2% of his passes for 640 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in three preseason games with the Cowboys this summer. He was cut after the Cowboys kept Cooper Rush as Dak Prescott’s backup and acquired Trey Lance in a trade with the 49ers.
Cunningham was sacked in his only dropback in Week 6. He’s split his time between quarterback, wide receiver and special teams since arriving with the team for rookie minicamp in May. The Louisville product was a four-year starter at quarterback in college. He became a fan favorite after giving the team a spark in their first preseason game, going 3-of-4 for 19 yards as a passer while rushing four times for 34 yards.
DeVito took over as the Giants’ starter after Daniel Jones (torn ACL) and Tyrod Taylor (ribs) were placed on injured reserve.