In March, the Patriots traded Matt Cassel to Kansas City, and many Patriots fans expected O'Connell to be Brady's understudy.
Earlier this month, the Patriots brought in Andrew Walter, recently released from the Oakland Raiders, as a backup, and waived Matt Gutierrez.
Today, the Patriots released Kevin O'Connell.
The move came as a surprise to many fans, as can be seen at this thread on PatsFans.com.
Count me among the confused, as well.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall when O'Connell threw not one but two interceptions in his second-half stint against the Washington Redskins on Friday night; in any case, reports throughout camp had him struggling at times.
On the other hand, given that O'Connell was a third-round pick, and that Bill Belichick had never cut a third-round pick before the start of his third season, many people, myself included, expected O'Connell would at least be given a second season to work things out as the scout team quarterback.
Another factor weighing into this calculation is that O'Connell had $471,000 in signing bonus that would hit the Patriots' already relatively tight cap if they released him this off-season.
Nevertheless, the Patriots felt that, for whatever reason, O'Connell simply did not have what it takes to be a quarterback for the New England Patriots.
The surprising move leaves two quarterbacks—Walter, and UDFA rookie Brian Hoyer—behind Brady, but it also means that if, the Patriots have to turn to a backup this season, they won't have anyone on the roster with more than a few months in the Patriots' system.
Moreover, other than Brady, only Hoyer is signed beyond the 2009 season.
(Anyone who thinks this is reason to say, "The Patriots should have kept Cassel," that was basically impossible after last season. They would have either had to pay too much, or, if they had had the foresight to sign him to a reasonable deal before the season had started, would almost certainly have received an offer too good to pass up.)
It remains to be seen if we will ever find out what prompted this sudden move. It also remains to be seen whether the Patriots will bring in another veteran quarterback behind Brady.
Finally, it seems that the question now is not if the Patriots will take a rookie quarterback in 2010, but when.