Matt Cassel or Tom Brady?: A Dilemma of Patriot Proportions

Chris DyerContributor INovember 26, 2008

Birth of a Media Blitz

“We will do whatever is best for our team to win”

— Not-a-direct-quote-but-we’ve-all-heard-Belichick-say-something-like-this-before.

If it was best for the Patriots, the team would dismiss Tom Brady, and appoint Matt Cassel the starting quarterback from today until the cows come home.

Bill Belichick has always made it clear, and used the philosophy to motivate rookies and veterans alike, that every position is always up for grabs.

It would be easy to throw out a hundred impressive statistics, perhaps even two or three you’d find useful at the water cooler—or better yet a few feet from a tailgate—but that’s not what you will find here.

(Quasi-Exception: see Statistics below)

Quiet Beginnings

Anyone who scratched their heads when the Patriots wasted a seventh-round pick on Matt Cassel? A quarterback with no starts in his collegiate career!?  Surely must have choked on their chowder when a third-round pick was trashed on...SURPRISE a young quarterback out of San Diego State. What? A third-rounder QB? Bye-bye Matty C!

So, the saga begins : Brady down in week one, no veteran brought in, a rough start in the first handful of games, crowds call for Cassel’s head, Belichick sticks to his guns, Cassel emerges as a Pro Bowl-caliber QB, Brady is traded?

Squuueeeeeeek.  I had to do it, since the sports world simply can’t sometimes. I hit the brakes. 

Statistics 101

Tom Brady has been the starting quarter back for the Patriots seven years: six playoff  appearances, four Super Bowls.

These are the only statistics that truly matter, not going 16-0, not 50 TD passes, NOT back-to-back 400+ yard games.


Brady out, Cassel in! (Huh? This looks long…)

Teams must always look to the future, while ensuring they don’t jeopardize the short term—it is a balancing act that few master and fewer perfect.

In the end football is the same as any business, teams must manage risk and hope for a little luck along the way.

For the Patriots the (evolving) question is, IS it more likely than not (left facing alligator and 50 percent) THAT:

(a) Tom Brady comes back from surgery, sees limited action due to subsequent injuries, career fizzles, out and bounces around the league for the next 5-6 years AND...

(b) Matt Cassel beyond his thus-far successful yet limited action proves himself to be a SUPER Bowl caliber player, who will lead the Patriots to a better future than a broken Brady.

Unless you fully believe (a) and (b) to be true—and instead you think it is likely that both plays are going to be reasonably healthy and play well—how can you NOT take Brady, who has a proven stock—especially considering that the Patriots just used a THIRD-round draft pick to grab their “quarterback of the future” this year.

Ok, ok, I know Brady will be an ancient 32 next season, and Cassel will be a chipper lad of only 27. However, IF “History Repeats Itself” and just take a look at Dan Marino (see Dolphins ’83-’99) and Joe Montana (117-47 career record) who were both highly effective until retirement—both at age 38.

There is no reason to assume that Brady will not have the same success, and give the Patriots as many as SIX more excellent chances to win world championships.

Cassel simply does not bring that level of comfort to table at this point (and won’t even if he leads the Patriots to a World Championship).

Brady will be the Patriots starter in 2009 with Kevin O’Connell and probably Matt Gutierrez rounding out the quarterback squad. 

 A Final Message for the Northern Atlantic Seaboard

Patriots fans: Be happy for Matt Cassel, hope for a playoff run, pray for a Super Bowl—but know this is the last year you will see Matt Cassel wearing 16 for the Red, White, and Blue (...and Silver).


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