Boston Sports Tonight

Was Bailey Zappe demoted for comments after Saints game?

"That felt like it was aimed directly at the guy a couple stalls down from him."

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The New England Patriots made undrafted rookie Malik Cunningham the backup quarterback in Week 6 while relegating Bailey Zappe to an emergency role. It was a curious decision made by head coach Bill Belichick, especially given that Cunningham has practiced primarily as a wide receiver lately.

Starting QB Mac Jones was benched in favor of Zappe during the Patriots' previous two losses vs. the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. Zappe didn't do anything notable during his brief appearances, but he could hang his hat on not turning the ball over, something that has been a serious issue for Jones this season.

Boston Sports Journal's Mike Giardi believes Zappe's demotion had less to do with performance and more to do with discipline handed down by Belichick. He explained why during his appearance on Wednesday's Boston Sports Tonight.

"I think it's a message to Zappe," Giardi said. "If you guys want to go back to Zappe's last game against the Saints, he stood in front of his locker and there was a crowd of us around him, and he said seven or eight times, 'Turnovers. We can't turn the ball over. That's the thing we've preached here from day one. You can't turn the ball over.' And he didn't turn the ball over. Who was turning the ball over? The guy in front of him.

"I came away from it being like, that didn't feel right. That felt like it was aimed directly at the guy a couple stalls down from him, and maybe Bill (Belichick) said, 'Wait a minute, dude. Don't tell me who's the backup, don't tell me you're this and you're that. You've been crap all spring and all summer too. And when you got your opportunities, you didn't complete any passes either. So you can go watch, and we'll talk about it again next week.'"

For what it's worth, the Boston Herald's Doug Kyed reports that "the Patriots viewed Cunningham as having more upside based on his athleticism and that the biggest risk was the rookie turning the ball over, which the team has already had issues with anyway." That Zappe was benched as a punishment is purely speculatory.

It'll be worth monitoring how Belichick approaches the QB position this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Zappe has yet to be told what his role will be in Week 7 and beyond.

“I don’t know if it’s just for that one week or whatever, but I’m still preparing like I’m getting an opportunity to go out there and play, and then do my job," he told Kyed.

Sunday's Patriots-Bills matchup is set for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium.

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