Matt Cassel: Destined for New Team or NE?

Matt Cassel proved everybody wrong. When Tom Brady went down with a season-ending knee injury in early September, nobody believed that the Patriots’ playoff hopes would come down to the final day of the season. But Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record, beating solid teams like the Denver Broncos, the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills. As it was, the Patriots were only the second team in NFL history to post an 11-5 record and not make the playoffs. They couldn’t have done it without Cassel, who helped the Patriots rack up 26 points and 365 yards per game, good for eigth place and fifth place in the NFL, respectively. Cassel did an admirable job for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. However, with the 2008-2009 season in the books for New England, the time has come to decide what to do with Cassel. The Patriots must decide whether to keep or trade their current starting quarterback. I think the Patriots should trade Cassel. While Cassel did an admirable job running the Patriots’ offense, he lacked Brady’s aura of confidence and cannon arm. Because Cassel couldn’t throw the ball deep consistently, defenses could largely ignore receiver Randy Moss. Moss saw a significant drop in receptions and touchdowns from the 2007-2008 season; in 2007, he hauled in 98 receptions for 23 touchdowns, and in 2008 he caught 69 passes for 11 scores. The Patriots need Moss to have a greater impact, and for that, they need Tom Brady to get him the ball. Another reason the Pats should trade Cassel is to bolster their defense. With the exception of AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Jerod Mayo, the linebacker corps is aging, and they need fresh faces to complement Mayo. New England’s suspect secondary needs help as well. The Patriots should try to trade Cassel or use the salary cap space freed up by Cassel’s departure to sign free agents. But what happens if the Patriots trade Cassel and Brady isn’t healthy by Opening Day 2009? In 2001 Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down to a season-ending abdomen injury. A sixth-round draft pick named Tom Brady stepped in, and he’s only won three Super Bowls since then. When Brady’s knee was torn to shreds in 2008, Matt Cassel, who had not started a game since high school, led the Patriots to double-digit victories, and if either the Baltimore Ravens or Miami Dolphins had lost on the final day of the season, the Patriots would’ve been in the playoffs. Does anybody else sense a pattern here? The fact that little-known, little-used quarterbacks can step in with such success speaks to the game plan designed by New England’s coaching staff as well as their ability to develop quarterbacks quickly. He did his job better than anyone could’ve predicted, but now it’s time for New England to look to the future.