BOSTON — At this moment in time, most people agree that it doesn’t really matter who starts at quarterback for the Patriots, as the team doesn’t have any option that can save this dreadful season.
Still, they are an NFL football team, and the role of starting quarterback is the most important job in professional sports. It does matter, and people do care.
So naturally, with the Patriots coming off their bye week following Mac Jones’ benching in Germany in a loss to the Colts, head coach Bill Belichick faced a barrage of questions on Tuesday about who his starting quarterback will be in New Jersey this coming weekend against the Giants.
Belichick handled the numerous questions in typical Belichick fashion, going with a simple phrase — “I told everybody to be ready to go” — and repeating it ad nauseam.
Here’s a brief transcript of how the exchanges with reporters went.
Q: Has a decision been made on the starting quarterback for this weekend?
BB: “I’ve told all the players the same thing: Be ready to go. So hopefully they will be.”
Q: Have you made a decision on the starting quarterback, regardless of what you’ve said to the team?
BB: “I’ve told everybody to be ready to go.”
Q: There’s a difference in what you’ve told them and whether or not you’ve made a decision.
BB: “Well, I’ll let you know on Sunday.” [Big smile]
Q: Is there a possibility of Malik Cunningham playing at quarterback?
BB: “I told every player to be ready to play. So we’ll see how things go, and go from there.”
Q: Whoever does start at quarterback, wouldn’t it be more advantageous for them to take the bulk of the starting reps while preparing?
BB: “I want everybody to be prepared.”
Q: How much of a challenge will that be when you have three, maybe four potential quarterbacks?
BB: “It’s everybody’s job to do the best they can to be prepared. We play a game on Thursday [in Week 14]. There will be even less time than we have now. So.”
Q: Have you given thought to having multiple players play at QB on Sunday?
BB: “I’ve told all the players to be ready to go. So.”
BB: “I think whoever we put in there will be able to do what we ask them to do. Otherwise, we wouldn’t ask them to do it.”
Q: Wouldn’t a head coach generally want the player, the offense, and the entire team to know who’s going to start at quarterback?
BB: “Everybody needs to be ready to go, Tom. So that’s where we are for today. So today’s Tuesday, go out there, be prepared, be ready to take advantage of their opportunities. Then we’ll go to Wednesday.”
Q: But if it’s Friday, do you want people apprised of the decision?
BB: “One day at a time. Today’s Tuesday.”
Q: So is there a competition this week, Bill?
BB: “I told everybody to be ready to go.”
Q: But your decision, whenever that happens, will it be based on this week?
BB: “It’ll be based on what I think is best for the team. And I’ve told everybody to be ready to go. Hopefully they will.”
Q: Can quarterbacks get enough reps at practice to win the job?
BB: “Look, everybody needs to be ready to go. You saw what happened in the [Giants-Raiders] game. [Daniel] Jones went out, [Tommy] DeVito came in. That could happen on the first play of the game, could happen in the middle of the game. Like, everybody needs to be ready to go. That’s our job right now, is to prepare the team to play on Sunday. That’s all of them. Not one of them, not two of them, but all the guys. And the guys who are active, when they get a chance to play, then hopefully they’ll play well and we’ll coach well.”
While the reliance on the repeated line will call to mind the “on to Cincinnati” or the “Seattle” press conference from 2016, the 71-year-old head coach has handled these questions differently in the past. He stated with clarity that Tom Brady was the starting quarterback during Brady’s rare down stretch in 2014, and he insisted that Cam Newton was the starting quarterback throughout the QB’s struggles late in the 2020 season. Last year, however, when Bailey Zappe won a couple of games during Mac Jones’ injury absence, Belichick was a bit less definitive when answering questions about his starting quarterback, creating some controversy in the middle of the season.
This year, even after the first two in-game benchings for Jones, Belichick stated publicly that Jones was the team’s starting QB. Yet after the third benching, Belichick has yet to issue that same support.
The head coach will have Jones, Zappe, Will Grier and Malik Cunningham to choose from at the position on Sunday against the 3-8 Giants. For now, he’s not giving any indication of which way he is leaning.
We’ll get you ready to Sunday’s Patriots-Giants tilt all week on WBZ-TV — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Coverage begins Wednesday night with Patriots 1st Down at 9:30 p.m. on TV38, and continues Saturday night with Patriots All Access at 7pm on both WBZ and TV38. Pregame coverage kicks off Sunday morning at 11:30am with Patriots GameDay, and after the game, tune in to Patriots 5th Quarter on TV38.