The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Crazy Coaches Are Dangerous

Posted on | August 29, 2023 | Comments Off on Crazy Coaches Are Dangerous

Because I was busy at the day job this afternoon, I wasn’t paying attention to football and, quite frankly, it had slipped my mind today was the deadline for final pre-season roster cuts in the NFL, when all teams have to get down to the 53-player limit. When I finally remembered to check, I was stunned: The New England Patriots waived both their backup quarterbacks, leaving Mac Jones as the only QB on the roster.

Every Patriots fan — and no doubt a majority of sports writers covering the NFL — had the same thought: “What the hell is Bill Belichick doing?”

As a rookie last year, Zappe stepped in after both Jones and veteran backup Bryan Hoyer were injured, and did so well that many fans in New England wanted him to keep the starting job. “Zappe! Zappe!” was the chant heard in Gillette Stadium any time Mac Jones appeared to be struggling later in the season. So how could it be possible that Belichick was ready to ditch the 2022 fourth-round pick? As for Cunningham, he was an undrafted free agent whom the Patriots hoped to convert to a wide receiver, but generated lots of excitement during a brief preseason appearance at QB, when he ran for a TD against the Houston Texans.

Surely, there must be some kind of plan? Another one of those genius four-dimensional chess moves by the Greatest Football Coach Ever, right? I mean, right? We’ll see. The problem is that the Patriots are keeping six wide receivers on the roster, and have also beefed up their reserves on the offensive line. In order to get down to 53 players, they had to do something, and the thinking seems to be that (a) other teams have had to make similarly difficult choices, (b) maybe no other team in the league really needs a backup QB at this points, so therefore perhaps (c) neither Zappe nor Cunningham will be claimed off waivers by any other team, however (d) it’s unlikely both Zappe and Cunningham will get claimed off waivers, in which case (e) at least one of them will be able to return to the Patriots on the practice squad, besides which (f) there’s almost certainly some other veteran backup QB available that New England could grab, if worse comes to worse.

That’s my analysis, anyway. The Patriots recently traded for two offensive tackles. Between now and the Sept. 10 season-opener, it’s likely New England will cut at least one more offensive lineman, thus opening a slot on the 53-man roster for whoever it is Belichick uses as the backup quarterback. But that’s as much four-dimensional chess as I can glean out of it, and I think most of the sports writers and TV commentators don’t have any better insight than I do. Bill Belichick is to football coaching what Oppenheimer was to nuclear weapons.



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