When Matt Cassel started Week Two for the New England Patriots in their game against the New York Jets—it was his first start in a football game since high school.
New England won the game, but Cassel didn’t win any fans.
The Patriot faithful were clamoring for a trade, or calling for the return of Vinny Testaverde, or demanding the acquisition of free agent Dante Culpepper.
Cassel, and more importantly, Bill Belichick, stayed the course and persevered.
In the end, Cassel led the Pats to 11 wins, threw for nearly 3700 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 63.4 percent completion percentage.
Cassel became the first Patriot quarterback, and only the fifth quarterback in NFL history, to have consecutive games with 400+ yards passing. He twice won the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award.
Yes, he was sacked 47 times and the Patriots missed the playoffs, but Cassel, an unrestricted free agent in 2009, will be rewarded this off season with a lucrative contract and a starting job in the NFL.