Mac Jones was the Patriots starting quarterback against the Giants but was benched after throwing two interceptions in the first half. Adam Hunger/Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Standing inside MetLife Stadium’s visitor’s locker room, Rhamondre Stevenson was asked when he found out which Patriots quarterback was starting Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. At that point, he immediately turned to the locker next to him and asked Ezekiel Elliott the same question.

“When did we learn who was going to start at quarterback today, Zeke?” Stevenson asked.

“Huh?” Elliott responded.

“When did we learn who was going to start at quarterback today?” Stevenson asked again.

“We knew the whole time,” Elliott said.

That’s when Stevenson turned back and told MassLive the truth – the Patriots always knew that Mac Jones was going to start on Sunday against the Giants.


“Yeah, we basically knew Mac was the starter all week in practice,” Stevenson said. “It was kind of the same thing.”

It appears that Bill Belichick’s practice quarterback competition was just for show.

The situation around the Patriots quarterback position took a confusing turn on Sunday. Leading up to the game, neither Belichick nor offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien would say who the Patriots would start at quarterback. Mac Jones said he thought it would be him. Bailey Zappe said he didn’t know who would start. Players in the locker room revealed that both players took reps with the first-team offense. O’Brien indicated that the best player in practice would play. Belichick said he told all players to be ready.

However, after Sunday’s loss, it appears that Jones was the plan all along.

“It was more split in reps, but Mac was out there leading the charge,” Stevenson said.

On Monday, Belichick said the same thing.


“Mac got the majority of the reps,” Belichick told WEEI’s ‘The Greg Hill Show.’ “But Zappe got plenty of reps this week.”

Those answers were different from what several other players said following the Patriots’ loss to the Giants. Hunter Henry said he didn’t find out who would start at quarterback until the day of the game. DeVante Parker said the same thing.

When asked about what Henry said, Belichick replied, “Mac took a lot of reps in practice, so it wasn’t a big surprise.”

Patriots Giants Football

Bailey Zappe replaced Mac Jones at quarterback in the second half and led the Patriots on a scoring drive. He also threw a crucial interception. Seth Wenig/Associated Press

In the end, it feels like players were told to not talk about their quarterback situation leading up to Sunday’s matchup. Perhaps, this was a strategy by Belichick to get the Giants to game plan for more than one player.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss theorized that the Patriots coach was trying to “sharpen the focus” of Jones and Zappe by not announcing a starter. Whatever the case may be, it didn’t work. Jones went 12 of 21 for 89 yards with two interceptions before being benched at halftime. In the second half, Zappe completed 9 of 14 passes for 54 yards with an interception.

On WEEI, Belichick was asked about his 2001 comments when he said it wasn’t possible to get two quarterbacks ready to start. The Patriots coach pushed back saying, “Mac had the majority of the reps.”

So, it wasn’t a 50/50 split with Zappe?

“No,” Belichick said.

When asked why he wouldn’t announce the team’s starting quarterback, Belichick said, “I don’t announce starters. I don’t announce starters at any position.”

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