The « Great American Quarterback » is here
It’s easy to see why Mac Jones is so eager to get back on track Monday night against the Bears.
On the one hand, he’s a fierce competitor, and on the other, he led Bill Belichick, the GOAT who drafted him 15th overall, to the playoffs as a rookie last season.
And, for three, Bailey Zappe.
New England has been gripped by Zappe Fever for the past three weeks as the fourth-round rookie through Western Kentucky has played so well that fans and media have returned to the days when Belichick decided to pursue his first Super Bowl crown with a second-year quarterback named Tom Brady instead of a Wally-Pipped Drew Bledsoe.
Anyone who knows Belichick knows he will face the players he thinks will give his team its best chance of winning, and to hell with draft status or whatever. Always, always will be.
Jones no more deserves to lose his job to a sprained left ankle than Zach Wilson did after Mike White teased Jets fans last season, but Zappe has shown composure, d uncommon polish and command in beating the Lions and Browns.
But after losing two of his first three starts this season, it should have been obvious to Jones just how drunk Belichick seemed to win during Zappe Hour.
It would be a good idea for Jones (64-for-97, 786 yards, two touchdowns, five interceptions) to forget that Josh McDaniels is no longer his offensive coordinator and start orchestrating the offense under Matt Patricia like Zappe ( 51-for-70, 596 yards, four touchdowns, one interception) did.
You better watch your back, Mac.
It’s entirely possible that your leash is shorter than before.
« Every time he got picked up by the Patriots, I was kind of curious why, because they had drafted Mac the year before, » Texas Tech offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zach Kittley said at Serbian Says. “But now the more I watch, and I dive a lot more into the Patriots and their organization and some of Coach Belichick’s philosophies since April when he was picked up, and I actually think it’s a perfect game. For me, it really fits the organization that I read about and the qualities of the people and the players that they want in that organization.
“I think he’s exactly Bill Belichick’s kind of guy – the Julian Edelmans, the Danny Amendolas, the Tom Bradys, those kind of players – I think he really fits that mould. If it’s me, I’m running the Bailey Zappe train on the tracks for a long time.
Kittley was QB coordinator and coach under head coach Tyson Helton last season at Western Kentucky and previously coached Zappe at Houston Baptist University (now Houston Christian). Kittley admits he is biased. The same goes for everyone who coached Zappe.
« We call him the great American quarterback, » Helton told Serbian Says. “When you think of a Drew Brees or Tom Brady type, they have a certain air, a certain mystique and a quality that when they’re on the pitch exudes confidence and makes people relax. When they walk in the group and they look in his eyes, they see a confident person, and that’s the key to having really good offenses, when you look in the eyes of a quarterback, you say to yourself : ‘Dude, this guy is going to do it for us.’ And that’s probably the biggest attribute he has.
“And then he also puts the coaches at ease. A trainer says to himself: « OK, this person knows what he is doing ». I think he puts the coaches at ease who say, “Hey, we gave the guy the keys to the Ferrari, and he knows how to drive it. ”
Helton was studying Kittley and his Air Raid offense at Houston Baptist when he was blown away by the quarterback, who had entered the transfer gate. Bingo! A double for Helton.
“He plays the game… I don’t know, I think a bit like Brett Favre. You know how Brett Favre would get mad at the defense and tell them something, he wasn’t intimidated at all by anything that was going on in that area, Bailey was like that,” Helton said. « Bailey wasn’t hesitant to flip the switch if something happened with a defensive player he didn’t like. He was going to let him know, he was going to let him have it. Several times an official came up to me and said, ‘Coach, you have to tell your quarterback not to say that to the defense.’ ”
Asked for an example, Helton said: “We go so fast with our pace that often defenses would try to slow us down by faking injuries. And if you were a fan in the stands, you’d see Bailey walking towards the defender, and it looks like he’s going to be watching him, like he’s leaning over, and like you see him patting his helmet, and you’re like, ‘He says to this guy, hey man, how are you, how are you?’, that kind of thing. But what he’s really saying is, ‘Hey, get your ass up, we all know you’re faking it. You are slowing me down. ”
Kittley recalls how Zappe suffered a high ankle sprain in 2019 against Texas Wesleyan, was limited and hobbled in practice before throwing for 513 yards and five touchdowns in a 53-52 upset of South Dakota.
“A big part of his strength is his mental capacity, and the way he can see the game, and the way I manage my offense, I put a lot on the quarterback, let those guys have a lot of room to play. maneuvering, the ability to check plays at the line of scrimmage and some of those things, and he really flourished being able to do that,” Kittley said.
Zappe topped all quarters with a Wonderlic score of 35.
« It doesn’t matter if he’s racing Air Raid or Run-n-Shoot or pro style or West Coast, he can perform and excel at a high level, » Helton said.
Helton cites a particular pitch against Appalachia State.
« We had an RPO, and he hit receiver X off the boundary like a skinny pole that takes tremendous timing, » Helton recalled. “And the safety was down but not very low, and he put the ball on the back shoulder of the safety and threw it before the X had even made the break on the post part of it. And security thought, « Well, I’m going to have a good easy pick, » and all of a sudden X crosses his face in the back, and he’s gone and runs for a touchdown.
« Well, that’s an NFL pitch if there ever was an NFL pitch. I think that pitch right there showed NFL scouts and general managers that, OK, yeah, that kid has the anticipation, this kid understands what’s going to happen before the ball breaks. And I think that kind of exclamation mark on all the work he’s done over the course of the season that says, OK , he has full command of the passing game when it’s time to kick the football off.
Kittley describes Zappe as a tough blue-collar kid who loves the game. Helton describes him as genuine and laid-back.
“During the first week of the program, our [Western Kentucky strength coach there [Jason Veltkamp] came in and said, “This guy has already set a new standard for what he’s supposed to look like in the weight room,” Kittley said. « He’s not a leader who yells and yells at him, he leads by example, but he’s also more the guy who wants to come up to you and talk to you about things maybe if someone makes a mistake instead of tear you apart or blame someone.He is more your positive leader.
Kittley takes issue with the hits on Zappe’s arm strength and when asked why he lasted until the fourth round, he replied, « People saw him as a 6-foot-1/2-inch, 215-pound guy. who was running a 4.78 or 4.82, whatever, 40. I think if Bailey Zappe would have been 6-2, I think Bailey Zappe would have been a hands-down first-round pick. I can promise you a million scouts I’ve spoken to since last spring have told me I was there and they missed a great player.
No one aboard the Zappe Train was surprised. The community of Victoria, Texas is buzzing with pride.
« He always had that ‘it’ factor. … Bailey has always been well-liked by his peers. He was the kind of guy who took charge of everyone. He kept everything on his shoulders, he never pointed the finger at anyone. It really earned the respect of all his teammates,” Victoria East High School coach Roland Gonzalez told Serbian Says.
« It’s by no means surprising, » Helton said. « When he got drafted by the Patriots, we all joked, not really seriously, but we were like, ‘Hey, look at him find a way early in the season to get on that court and play,' » said Helton. « Yes, it’s come true. He’s a guy who exudes confidence, he makes people believe that when he’s in the game, they have a good chance of winning, and that’s what you want in a quarterback.
That’s what Belichick wants in a quarterback. Has always. Will always be.
Watch your back, Mac.