Bailey Zappe had everything working against him this season.
Despite already proving last season that he might be the best QB in New England, there was no uncertainty through the offseason about whether Mac Jones was ahead of him on the depth chart. Then he was cut. He was sent to the practice squad. He was left to languish on the bench as Mac Jones proved again and again (and again and again and ...) that he's not a capable NFL starter. Then he had to adapt to an offense that was designed around Mac, and that was light on talent.
And still, he's turned in some impressive performances over his last couple games, leading one of the NFL's worst teams to two wins in its last three games.
A Christmas Eve thriller against the Denver Broncos now means that Zappe has played his way out of New England - just not in the same way that Mac Jones has.
Patriots' Bailey Zappe Will Be Traded
Usually someone "plays their way out" of a city by playing like Mac. Struggling, getting benched, and getting run out of town. But not Zappe.
Zappe has played his way out of town because he has shown a ton of promise, but it would be malpractice to hitch the future of the franchise on his shoulders.
The Pats will still potentially have the No. 2 overall pick, and if not then almost certainly they'll be picking top five. Caleb Williams won't be available, but Drake Maye could be. Jayden Daniels could be.
When you have a shot at a franchise quarterback in the NFL, you take it unless you're 100% certain you've already got a franchise QB on your roster. And even if the Pats were to win out with Zappe, it's just too late in the season to be certain about that.
And there are no questions about this team's defense, which means a franchise QB could turn this entire Patriots organization around within a matter of one or two years. And you simply can't pass on that opportunity.
But what about Zappe? He could become a potential franchise quarterback. We just haven't (and won't have had) enough time to see. As a middling fourth-round prospect, you need to see him ball out for a significant stretch in the NFL to overcome that prior of "he's only an okay prospect," which would require actually giving him opportunities.
So the coaching staff bungled this. They stuck with Mac for far too long, even after it was completely obvious that starting Mac meant taking an L on this entire season.
So that brought extra losses, but it also put us in the spot we are now.
Zappe has shown too much promise as a potential starter to accept riding the bench again next year with no real hopes of establishing himself as a starter. Even if the Patriots went the "defer to the veteran first" route, having a top-five pick behind you at QB means you know everyone is just waiting to take your job away anyway. And he's set to make less than $1 million next year.
For as game as he's been for whatever New England throws at him, he shouldn't accept the bench role on the Patriots.
So that means we'll just need to get what we can for him, trading him to a QB-needy team where he'll have a real shot at a starting job while getting a new contract.
Bailey Zappe might have the potential to be the quarterback of the future in New England, but thanks to poor coaching decisions we won't ever get to see if that's true or not.
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