It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in New England on September 7. Fans were eagerly anticipating another great season from the Tom Brady-led Patriots as they marched onto the field for the match-up between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots.
Brady quickly threw seven passes for 76 yards. Fans cheered as this promising first quarter of the first game of the season showed signs of a repeat from the Patriots high powered offense.
Then the unexpected happened.
Brady, while trying to complete a throw, was knocked down awkwardly from Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard. The signs of a possible Super Bowl run shattered with one tackle. Brady had just torn his ACL and MCL and was lost for the rest of the season.
Enter Matt Cassel. The motions were now in place for April 2, 2009.
Cassel, a virtual unknown to the NFL at that time, began to make a splash in the league. Cassel was shaky in his first couple of games and will never be compared to the likes of Brady or Peyton Manning, but did complete the season with 21 touchdowns, 3,693 yards and a quarterback passer rating of 89.4.
Not bad for a quarterback who didn't start a game since high school.
Josh McDaniels definitely noticed the talent and potential that Cassel possessed. It was enough to offer a three-way trade, shipping out Jay Cutler from Denver and bringing in Cassel along to head his new team.
We all know how this story has unfolded in the media over the last four weeks. The result became Cutler and a future fifth round pick going to the Chicago Bears for two first round picks, a third round pick, and quarterback Kyle Orton.
This trade would never have seen the light of day if Cassel was never given the chance to start for one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. This trade was in the making from just one awkward tackle to a star quarterback and has the potential to alter multiple franchise for years to come. There are now many questions that need to be answered.
Can Cassel lead an NFL offense without the likes of Randy Moss and Wes Welker?
Can the Denver Broncos—who were searching for a franchise quarterback since John Elway and then finally find one in Cutler only to watch him slip away—recover from this trade?
Can Broncos fans find it in their hearts to forgive Pat Bowlen and McDaniels for making this trade a possibility?
Did the Chicago Bears, quarterback starved for years, finally find their franchise quarterback?
Was the cost worth it?
Time will answer all of these questions, some sooner then others.
Nonetheless, the reason these questions need answering is because of that one sunny Sunday afternoon in Gillette Stadium.