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Rebuilding QB Room Ranked as Patriots Best Offseason Move

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New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (14) speaks with quarterback Drake Maye (10) during an NFL football practice, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

There were a lot of changes for the New England Patriots since the 2023 season ended. Chief among these was parting ways with longtime head coach and head of football operations Bill Belichick. Eliot Wolf received the final say on football decisions. New England hired Jerod Mayo as their new head coach. They brought in a new staff on offense, led by offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. However, one analyst believes the best move made by the Patriots this offseason was rebuilding the team’s quarterback room.

NFL analyst Garrett Podell of CBS Sports wrote about the best moves for each NFL team this offseason. For most teams, it was specific draft picks or free agent signings. The Los Angeles Chargers’ hiring of head coach Jim Harbaugh took top honors for their franchise.  For the New England Patriots, it was changing the look of the most important position on the roster.

Also Read – Kelley: New England’s 2024 Starting QB Is Not on the Roster

At some point in the 2023 season, it became clear that the New England Patriots quarterbacks were neither a short-term nor long-term answer. There was plenty of quantity in the QB room, though quality was lacking. At various points last year the Patriots employed quarterbacks Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, Trace McSorley, Malik Cunningham, Matt Corral, Ian Book, Will Grier, and Nathan Rourke. Zappe is the only one remaining on the Patriots 90-man roster.

QB Struggles in 2023

Mac Jones began last season as the Patriots starting quarterback. Bailey Zappe had made a positive impression in limited time in 2022, but a QB competition never materialized heading into 2023. The job belonged to Jones, who was playing under his third offensive coordinator in his three-year career.

Jones started the season okay. After three weeks the Patriots were 1-2, but Jones had thrown five touchdowns against only two interceptions. Things got ugly over the next two weeks. In consecutive blowout losses to the Cowboys and Saints, Jones accounted for no touchdowns and six turnovers. He would retain his starting position for another seven games, but things never improved significantly. He finished the season 2-9 in his 11 starts. After Week 3, he threw only five more touchdowns and ten interceptions. An ugly interception on his final pass against the Colts in Germany ended his run as QB1 in New England. He did not see the field again for the Patriots.

Bailey Zappe played the final drive against Indianapolis, throwing an interception. He started the final six games, posting a 2-4 record. Zappe threw six touchdowns and nine interceptions on the season. Bailey Zappe did not fare any worse than Mac Jones, but he didn’t show enough to convince anyone that some changes were not needed in 2024.

Jones and Zappe finished 2023 with identical grades from Pro Football Focus: 52.2. Of 39 NFL quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks last season, only Desmond Ridder of the Atlanta Falcons (51.9) received a lower grade. The Patirots duo was far closer to Ridder than they were to even the next lowest-graded QB on the list.

Jones Out, Brissett In

Although Zappe returns in 2024, he is far from guaranteed a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. Mac Jones did not return. The Patriots traded Mac Jones to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Holding the No. 3 overall selection in the draft, popular belief had New England selecting a quarterback. But having a veteran mentor for the rookie was also considered important. The Patriots signed veteran Jacoby Brissett to a one-year deal to handle that role.

The first issue solved by the signing of Jacoby Brissett is quarterback room chemistry. The relationship between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe was reportedly not warm last season. Part of this was just the two players both studying and preparing on their own. Another aspect is likely the battle both felt they were having to win over teammates, coaches, and fans alike. They were teammates, though not necessarily on the same team. A similar situation could not be allowed to play out in 2024.

No matter which young quarterback New England drafted, having a veteran to support them and help show them the ropes was crucial. Neither Jones nor Zappe showed they were willing or able to handle such a role (not to say they couldn’t). Brissett is a perfect fit. He has been around the NFL long enough to know that Drake Maye is the future franchise quarterback of the New England Patriots. Maye will play whenever he’s ready, which Brissett knows. This is not about trying to keep the rookie from taking his job, helping him prepare to take the starting job is part of the reason Brissett was brought here. Roles are defined. That is important.

Drafting Drake Maye

Of course, nothing that happened with Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, or Jacoby Brissett matters much if not for the addition of Drake Maye. New England knew when they traded Jones and signed Brissett that they selected third in the draft. This meant a rookie quarterback was coming to Foxboro.

Whether Maye lives up to his potential remains to be seen. However, the potential is there. He is good size, mobility, and arm strength. He also enjoys the benefit of a good situation in New England. Not that the Patriots are ready to compete for a spot in the Super Bowl this season by any means. On the contrary, they are predicted to land the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NFL Draft. So while Maye does not join a franchise where he is surrounded by All-Pro offensive linemen and an abundance of elite playmakers, he is also not burdened by unrealistic expectations.

If Drake Maye starts and struggles, there are plenty of prior examples of star quarterbacks doing the same. If Maye sits behind Brissett until he’s ready to play, there are many examples of that working out too. The expectation level for New England in 2024 is minimal. While that’s not great for Patriots fans, it does benefit the new front office, coaching staff, and rookie quarterback.

Conclusion

The most important position in any sport might be that of an NFL quarterback. Teams looking to win Super Bowls will be hard-pressed to get in position to do so without a stud quarterback need absolutely everything else to be perfect. An elite quarterback makes up for many of those deficiencies.

Is Drake Make going to be an elite quarterback for the New England Patriots? It’s far too early to say. However, he does have the talent and work ethic to become elite. A year ago, the Patriots had no such player with that type of ceiling. He also has a veteran mentor who was brought aboard to look out for Maye’s best interests and teach him the NFL ropes. With the importance of the position, and the turnover in the room, it seems CBS Sports nailed this assesment.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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