This was the make-or-break season for Mac Jones. Fans and the team were willing to be patient, heading into his third NFL season he'd finally been given the tools to succeed and looked poised to join the list of young AFC East QBs to finally break out in their third season.
But that's clearly not happening.
Regardless of what happens for the rest of the 2023 season, whether it's Jones riding out the rest of the way or Bailey Zappe taking over, it's clear that the Week 1 starter in 2024 can not be Mac Jones.
With that in mind, here are the five most likely replacements for Mac Jones next season.
1. Bailey Zappe
Let's start with possibly the least exciting option, but one that can't be ignored.
Bailey Zappe showed some promise when he got to make 2 starts as a rookie in 2022, and it's looking like he'll get a nice extended tryout down the stretch in 2023 as well.
Personally I'm not sold on Zappe being the answer, but it's way too early to think we can really know one way or the other yet.
The chances of Mac starting 17 games this year are incredibly slim, and it's hard to imagine Zappe not getting at least a handful of starts unless the defense somehow carries the Patriots into playoff contention while Jones is still under center.
It doesn't feel like Zappe's ceiling is especially high, but there are two reasons I'm not going to let that sour me on the idea yet:
First of all, we haven't seen enough of his play to know that for sure. We should have a much better idea how true that is by the end of the season.
Second, this Patriots team is built around strong defense, special teams and a rushing attack. It's not going to take another Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterback to make us playoff contenders.
But what about some options outside the organization?