BOSTON -- For the first two-plus decades of Bill Belichick's tenure in New England, questioning the status of the quarterback was not allowed. Whether it was Tom Brady or Cam Newton, no matter how dire the circumstances seem, the head coach made sure to protect the quarterback from any outside doubts about the job security of the starting quarterback.
That changed last year, when Belichick refused to publicly commit to Mac Jones while the quarterback was out due to injury. It led to what coaches fear the most: distraction. And it culminated with a rather sloppy evening against the Chicago Bears that saw Jones benches for Bailey Zappe. Both quarterbacks were bad that night, and the Patriots lost to a Bears team that has yet to win another game in its last 14 tries.
Perhaps because of that experience, the 71-year-old Belichick is getting back to his standard of dousing any flames of a quarterback controversy.
Even after benching Jones for Zappe in the middle of Sunday's blowout loss to Dallas, Belichick wasn't willing to publicly entertain the idea of Zappe taking some starter reps at practice this week.
"Um, yeah, I doubt anything would change significantly," Belichick said Monday when asked that very question. "But we'll talk about that. I mean, I don't know. We haven't gotten to that point yet."
Belichick also spoke with some softness toward Jones, despite the quarterback's objectively horrible day under center.
"Well I mean, everything gets highlighted by one or two plays, one way or another. But in general, I think he makes pretty good decisions," Belichick said of Jones, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, leading to two defensive scores for Dallas on Sunday. "He sees things well. But obviously as a team, we can't win turning the ball over three times in a game, two for touchdowns. So we've got to do a better job of that. That's everybody's responsibility. The quarterback's part of it, so is everybody else."
The messaging was in line with Belichick's postgame comments about Jones, when the coach said, simply, "I didn't think there was any point in leaving him in the game." Belichick denied that the benching was related to poor play, instead reiterating that "there was no point in leaving him out there."
Jones completed just 12 of his 21 passes for 150 yards on Sunday with no touchdowns and two interceptions in addition to getting strip-sacked from behind by Dante Fowler.
Jones ranks 16th in the NFL in passing yards, he's tied for 12th in touchdown passes, and he ranks 25th in passer rating. If he puts forth more performances like Sunday's, then the coaching staff will of course have decisions to make at the most important position on the field. For now, though, Belichick is doing his best to keep things at status quo.
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