Patriots mailbag: Explaining intrigue around third-string QB Will Grier

At least the Patriots made this week interesting by creating a quarterback controversy heading into the bye week.

There wouldn’t have been many questions about the current state of the 2-8 Patriots if Mac Jones wasn’t benched for Bailey Zappe at the end of their Week 10 loss to the Colts.

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Now everyone wants to know who’s going to start and why the Patriots have made this situation so strange over the last two weeks.

Let’s answer those questions in this week’s mailbag.

Why do people think Will Grier is capable of anything? #MailDoug

I think it mostly stems from the fact that he’s not Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe. Jones seems like a broken quarterback, and Zappe has been terrible every step of the way since Bill O’Brien took over as offensive coordinator.

Zappe was so bad this summer in training camp and the preseason that he was waived at roster cuts. None of the other 31 teams wanted to claim him, so he rejoined the Patriots’ practice squad before signing to the 53-man roster before Week 1. And he’s been worse than Jones in all three of his relief appearances this season. And a source said he’s been just as bad in practice during the season.

I don’t mean to rail on him, but Zappe is lucky to have the backup job. Most other backup quarterbacks would have earned a start over Jones at this point, but the Patriots can’t justify it.

Grier at least presents another option. He wasn’t good in two starts with the Panthers, but those came in his rookie season. He was pretty solid this preseason with the Cowboys but hasn’t had much of a chance to compete for the Patriots’ job since he missed all of training camp and the preseason. He even started the season on the Bengals’ practice squad.

Grier referenced Vikings quarterback Josh Dobbs when asked about increased opportunities he received in practice last week. I think there’s something to playing free at quarterback, and I have a hard time imagining Jones or Zappe just slinging around the ball in a game. Both players seem like they’re in their own heads. I don’t know if Grier would be if given the same opportunities.

But really that’s how bad the Patriots’ quarterback situation has gotten. We know almost nothing about Grier. But he’s still a more promising starting option than the guys who have been around since April.

That being said, it would be a major upset if he starts Sunday.

If Mac starts. Does this tell you they’re not going to draft a QB in the first 3 rounds.

No, it does not. The fact that there’s a quarterback controversy at all — given how poorly Zappe has performed — is damning enough for Jones.

People I’ve talked to in the organization have been down on Jones for weeks. I don’t know how the Patriots handle the draft next April. It’s too early for the Patriots to even know that. But they need a new franchise quarterback.

Should the Patriots be picking the best QB to win games, or the best QB to secure a high draft pick ?

I’m not sure if there’s a major difference there right now. I think ultimately, the Patriots need to find a quarterback that other players will be able to rally behind. And I’m not sure if that player is on the roster right now.

I’ll tell you what would be the most fun option: elevate Malik Cunningham from the practice squad and give him more reps at quarterback this week against the Giants. I don’t know if he’s an every-down option at this point, but I’d like to see some read-option looks with Cunningham under center.

what is the reasoning behind evenly splitting reps with zappe/mac? doesn’t it hurt one guy or the other by not letting them know early on in the week if they’re starting or not?

I think the Patriots are trying to push Jones and see if Zappe can show enough improvement to justify starting him.

I think the team made a mistake by benching Jones when they did in that game against the Colts. You can’t bench your quarterback before a two-minute drill while down by four points and then start him the next week. That’s not how any of this works.

If the Patriots hadn’t benched Jones, then the team would have had more viable options. Jones could have mounted a comeback. If he did, then there wouldn’t be any questions about who was going to start. But even if the Patriots still lost, then the assumption would be that Jones would continue to start.

After benching Jones in that situation, Bill Belichick just opened himself up to a gigantic quarterback competition and controversy.

After the bye: how are Pop, Kayshon & Tyquan looking as receivers?

Demario “Pop” Douglas is definitely looking the best of the bunch. He’s pretty clearly been the Patriots’ best pass catcher this season. He could overtake Kendrick Bourne as the Patriots’ receiving leader this week against the Giants. Give the Patriots’ college scouting staff credit for that pick. He’s been a steal in the sixth round.

Boutte finally got some work last week with DeVante Parker unavailable in concussion protocol. He made his first NFL catch. We’ll see if he goes back to being a healthy scratch with Parker practicing this week.

Thornton was active but didn’t play a single snap in Week 10 against the Colts. It’s fair to say he’s been a pretty major second-round bust through two seasons now.

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