Show Matt Cassel the Money: Get Used to No. 16 As the NE Patriots' QB

Nick VennochiContributor IJanuary 6, 2009

As Gillette Stadium went silent, Matt Cassel's heart began to race. His one, and maybe only, opportunity to once and for all prove everyone wrong was upon him.

I don't think he wished it upon Brady, but hey, how did Brady get his start a few seasons previously? So, if this is the end of No. 12 in New England; it is fitting that he went out the way his predecessor did.

I do believe Tom Brady may be done as a Patriot, and not by his choice or by the franchise's. Not many people just come back from a torn MCL and ACL. And even fewer come back from countless complications on those surgeries.

It is time we all start to embrace Matt Cassel as the starting quarterback of not only the future, but the present.

Reports are that the New England patriots will put the franchise tag on Cassel. I think that it is time that the Patriots "show him the money." I know having two QBs with huge contracts isn't the smartest idea because of the many needs the Patriots have, but under the circumstances, it may be the only way to stay competitive.

Franchising Cassel is a quick fix, and with the lack of talent at the QB position in the NFL and the other needs of the team that should be addressed in the draft, signing Cassel to a long-term deal hurts no one.

If indeed Brady miraculously does come back, the Patriots could always deal Cassel or Brady to another team to improve its own.

I just think that after being thrown in the fire like he was, after a perfect season that saw everything but the ultimate prize—a prize I may add that was taken from them by a freak play, Cassel did a pretty decent job as the Patriots QB in just 15 starts.

It has been well documented that before his Week Two start, Cassel hadn't started since high school and that he sat behind USC greats Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart; but the injuries also made a huge impact on the Patriots season.

The Patriots finished 11-5 without their starting quarterback, running back, outside linebacker, and safety all missing significant time. But those weren't the biggest road blocks for Matt Cassel, and neither was his lack of experience...

He didn't need the experience, he was surrounded by veterans that all worked hard and played the right way. Instead, his biggest challenge was trust.

It wasn't that he didn't trust his teammates, but his teammates didn't trust him. He had watched for the past few seasons from the bench with the likes of Peyton Manning's backup, Brett Favre's backup, and Donovan McNabb's backup as Tom Brady's backup, the nameless late-round pick out of USC.

He watched as they racked up an 18-0 record and he saw the great names on the back of their uniforms and the one of the front and new all that it stood for.

But his teammates didn't know how he would react to a crucial 4th-and-3 in a must-win game, and frankly before Brady went down, they didn't want to know.

But after gaining his teammates' trust, Cassel showed improvement every week. He went from lifetime backup to someone who was getting the interviews after the game win or lose.

So I think it is all time for everyone to wrap their minds around the fact that Tom Brady may never be back in a Patriots jersey and if he is he may never be the same, and once you do that, you may want to give Matt Cassel a call and thank him for somehow getting an 11-5 season out of his team.

And then roll out the Benjamins.