Matt Cassel: Ready to Lead?

Zero: the number of games New England starting quarterback Matt Cassel had started in the nine years prior to the 2008 NFL season. Cassel’s lack of experience is clearly contributing to his extremely poor play this season. His last start, before this season, was in 1999 for Chatsworth High School, a game where he also lined up as a defensive back. ?Since then, he’s been backing up the likes of Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer at the University of Southern California, and most recently Tom Brady for the Pats. ?There is no doubt Cassel has the potential to be a good if not a great QB, but not seeing the field for such a long period of time has surely diminished his skills and natural quarterback instincts, not to mention his confidence. This has been obvious in Cassel’s four starts so far this season. Cassell has produced only two touchdowns, while throwing four interceptions. ?In addition, Cassel has been sacked 13 times. His numbers are unacceptable for a quarterback of any team in the NFL, let alone a preseason playoff favorite like the Patriots.?The game this past Sunday at San Diego proved to be Cassel’s worst game this season by far. The ten points put on the scoreboard by the weak offense, led by Cassel, was the least amount of points scored by New England since they were shut out by the Miami Dolphins in December of 2006. ?A defining moment of Cassel’s inability to be a productive starter in the NFL came in the third quarter of last week’s game. The Patriots stood on the Chargers one-yard line. With the Patriots behind by 14 points and trailing 17-3 at the time, Cassel’s offense could not move just one yard to get the ball into the end zone. This included a fourth down play where Cassel could not find an open receiver, scrambled around in the pocket, and eventually got sacked. ?All of this occurred while Ben Watson sat in the end zone wide open. This was just one example of how Cassel’s lack of game experience is affecting his ability to see receivers, get rid of the ball when he needs too, and come through in the big moment. ?Cassel would probably tell you that he has learned from some great quarterbacks through his years on the bench, picking up skills and habits along the way. This is probably true. ?However, anything Cassel has picked up had not been tested against real competition. Playing in preseason games or against the second-team defense did not prepare Cassel for the speed and tenacity of the regular season. ?After Brady’s injury, Cassel finally had a chance to see live game experience. The problem is Cassel is now testing some of the things he has learned instead of calmly showcasing his talents. ?Let’s face it, Cassel is not Brady, and never will be. But nonetheless, he has so far proven that he is not ready to be a starting quarterback in this competitive league. He lacks the experience to be a successful quarterback in the short term. The Patriots simply cannot win with him as the leader of the offense. ??