Bill Belichick offered absolutely no clarity on the Patriots quarterback situation in his Tuesday morning press conference. The coach issued some variation of “I told everybody to be ready to go” almost a dozen times, and Sunday’s starter in the Meadowlands remains murky.
“Everybody needs to be ready to go,” Belichick said. “You saw what happened in the Dallas (vs. New York) game. (Daniel) Jones went out. (Tommy) DeVito came in. That could happen on the first play of the game. It could happen in the middle of the game. Everybody needs to be ready to go.
“That’s our job right now: To prepare the team to play on Sunday. That’s all of them. Not one of them. Not two of them. All the guys. The guys who are active — if they get a chance to play, hopefully they’ll play well and we’ll coach well.”
So with four quarterbacks on the Patriots roster, let’s weigh the pros and cons for each potential starter:
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Pros: Jones is still the most gifted quarterback on the roster — he was a first-rounder for a reason — and everything around him has also been a dumpster fire this season. It’s not like the offensive line has been great, wide receivers are getting open, and Jones has been the only issue. It’s a unit-wide failure. If there’s a competition at practice this week, Jones will likely win it. He’s been winning on the practice field all year long; it’s why he was the only quarterback that wasn’t cut at the end of camp.
Cons: Jones looks totally broken. Bill O’Brien can say “everything is fixable” with the young quarterback, but the reality is this: Jones keeps making the same mistakes week after week. He’s not stepping into his throws and has a penchant for crippling interceptions. A hard reset might do him well.
Pros: He’s not Jones, and Zappe has some grassroots support because he won a pair of starts last season, albeit against inferior opponents. Zappe hasn’t had his confidence rattled like Jones.
Cons: Zappe was so bad in training camp this summer that Belichick cut him. He also began dropping his arm slot “to throw around guys instead of trying to throw it over,” which seemed an odd choice at 6-foot-1. In relief of Jones, he’s somehow managed to be worse, completing only 40% of his passes. His interception into triple coverage in Germany was even more head-scratching than Jones’, and Belichick demoted him to third string in favor of Malik Cunningham in Las Vegas earlier this season.
Pros: He’s not Jones or Zappe. Grier has spent more time in the NFL than any quarterback on the roster and would simply be a welcome change of pace at this point; how much worse could it be?
Cons: Grier hasn’t appeared in a game since 2019 and has yet to leapfrog Zappe on the depth chart. If he was really impressing on the practice field, he’d be serving as the backup now, but he’s been spending most of his time on the scout team.
Pros: If the Patriots wanted to throw a real curveball at the Giants, it’d be Cunningham. Belichick can be tight-lipped on his quarterback, but if it’s Jones, Zappe, or Grier, how different will New York’s game plan really be? They’re all pocket passers with limited weapons. Cunningham is a dual threat that can dice opponents with his legs, too. Running is what the Patriots do best, and the rookie could add to that.
Cons: In his one appearance this season, Cunningham didn’t look close to ready. The Patriots have probably tasked him with too much — wide receiver, special teams, etc. — to thrust him into a starting quarterback role now, and it’d be foolish to wreck his development moving forward if he’s too green.