"We all remember the scene: It was Week one of the NFL season, and the Patriots were playing the Chiefs. Everything was going fine until Bernard Pollard delivered a crunching blow to Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady. We remember Brady being helped off of the field, but we probably do not remember it as well as Matt Cassel.
Cassel had been living in Tom Brady's shadow. As the backup quarterback, he watched Brady lead the Patriots to an undefeated season in 2007, and he watched as the Patriots knocked off one opponent after another in playoffs, then he watched the devastating loss to the Giants in the biggest game of all, the Super Bowl.
During the preseason games, Cassel had started most of the games because of Brady nursing an injury that he had suffered in '07, but when the Pats got ready to face the Chiefs, Brady was ready to get back to playing NFL football.
Instead, he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Right then, the funeral bells for the Patriots' season started to play, and boy, did they play loud. Here they were, plenty of talent and all, but they had a kid under center instead of one of the best QBs to play the game. Cassel hadn't even started a game since high school (1999); he wasn't even worthy to tie Tom Brady's cleats.
But then, everyone remembered back to when Drew Bledsoe was the starter, he had suffered an injury and here came a rookie who had been drafted in the sixth round of the draft from Michigan. His name was Tom Brady.
Was it possible that the Pats could have good luck again?
Well, one thing is for sure, Matt Cassel is no Tom Brady, but then, nobody is asking him to be. The fans, coaches, and even the players want him to play football like Matt Cassel is supposed to play football, and besides, he is more of a rushing threat than Brady was.
After Tom Brady recovers, you can be sure that the starting job will still be his, but Cassel may find himself a different team if he performs well this season, a team where he is the starter.
Kansas City is sorta kinda looking for a quarterback, with his crunching knee hit, Bernard Pollard may have found them one. Or maybe he'll go to Minnesota or somewhere else, but one thing is for sure, Matt Cassel will never live in Tom Brady's shadow again."
I wrote this article in November of 2008. Matt Cassel did indeed play well and he should've led the Patriots into the playoffs. After all, an 11-5 record is usually good enough, right?
Well, it wasn't good enough, and the Patriots were stuck watching others play for the Lombardi Trophy.
After the season was over, the Patriots placed the franchise tag on Cassel, and many thought that Cassel would be sitting on the Patriots' bench holding a clipboard next year while Tom Brady would bring the Patriots storming back into the Super Bowl scene with guns blazing.
But that was not to be.
Cassel, along with veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel, was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for the Chiefs' second-round pick in the draft (No. 34 overall).
Some call that a steal.
But the Patriots want to get younger, and with Cassel and Vrabel gone, they have a lot more cap space.
Moreover, their second round picks usually turn out to be starters within a few years, so the Patriots may have gotten more out of the trade than we realize.
We'll just have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure: Bill Belichick sure didn't get those three Super Bowl rings by helping other teams.
He's got more up the sleeves of that Patriots' hoody than you or I will ever realize.
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