Bye bye, Brady. It's Cassel's kingdom now

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008

One of the first things I did on Tuesday was try and claim Matt Cassel off waivers in my fantasy football league.

I'll find out tonight if I snagged him.

Why do I sound so enthused, you ask?

Two words -- Bill Belichick.

Call him what you will -- a liar (although he never technically falsifies injury reports, rather just omits details); a cheat (well, I really can't deny that one); a monotonous, gray-hoody-sweatshirt-wearing, reporter's nightmare (umm, that either).

However, some may, and should, dub him one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time.

Another pair of words for you -- Tom Brady.

It was Week 2 of the now infamous 2001 season when the prodigious Brady took over for the injured Drew Bledsoe and rallied the Patriots to their first-ever Super Bowl title, a 20-17 win over the two-touchdown favorite St. Louis Rams.

Brady had as much a chance of succeeding that season as George Costanza ever did of becoming an architect.

We all know how that turned out -- for both of them.

But reality now finally settles into Gillette Stadium, an eerie haze that's been lacking since the days of Pete Carroll.

The face of the franchise is lost for the season, reportedly, with a torn ACL and MCL, injuries that will sideline him for the next eight to 10 months.

It's hard to say, let alone believe, that No. 12 won't be exiting the tunnel every week, leading New England to another record-breaking season.

Brady was an irreplaceable element, a crutch if you will (no pun intended) that the Patriots had leaned on over the past 111 straight regular-season starts, a span during which multiple other stars went down with untimely injuries.

Imagine the Red Sox losing Manny Ramirez. Wait, that did happen.

Come October, the Sox will now be relying on Jason Bay or Kevin Youkilis to deposit one into the Monster seats with two down in the bottom of the ninth and the series on the line.

Great players, both of them, but it just won't happen.

Belichick surely had a hand in orchestrating one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories ever told in the NFL.

And now he has a chance to write another.

Cassel did his best Brady impersonation on Sunday, going 13-of-18 for 152 yards and a touchdown in guiding New England to a 17-10 win over Kansas City.

But had the Chiefs punched it in from a first-and-goal situation at the Pats' 5 in the final minute and eventually won the game, things would be different today.

Daunte Culpepper or perhaps, gulp, Joey Harrington, would have been immediately chartered into Foxborough with a solid chance at becoming the next Patriots starter.

Instead, Chris Simms, the former Tampa Bay signal caller, was flown in and told to leave, reports say.

Get used to it New Englanders, Matt Cassel, for better or for worse, is the new starting quarterback.

And let's put it in print right now -- I do not think he will guide the Pats to their fourth championship in the past eight seasons.

I know he won't come close to matching Brady's Most Valuable Player performance of a year ago, when Brady set the new NFL standard with 50 touchdown passes.

And it's a near certainty he won't lead two-minute drills with as much precision and confidence as the unflappable quarterback with three rings bogging down his passing hand always has.

On the other ringless hand, however, I do know this.

The rest of the team is still intact.

How can Cassel fail with Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, et al. at his disposal? Throw it up or hand it off and let them do what they're paid to do.

The defense, while a year older and minus a couple of clutch players, is healthy and still as determined as ever. If not more now.

And then there's Coach Bill.

His game plan likely won't include 40 attempts for Cassel. Or will it?

I wouldn't put it past him.

"He has as many college and pro starts as I do," a fellow reporter said to me on Wednesday, citing Cassel's career as a backup at USC, his last start coming in a high school playoff game in November 1999.

I barely passed my high school English classes yet I'm still writing today, right?

So, the Pats may not go 14-2 or 13-3 as previously thought, but 12-4 or 11-5 isn't out of the question.

Anyway, I'm with Moss.

"We did have a big loss in Tom Brady, but we still have 10 guys out there on that field to go out there and make it happen," Moss said. "We're still the team to beat in this division, and we'll see what happens."

It's just another season of proving skeptics wrong. This time, though, the Pats are accustomed to it.

And it all begins, appropriately enough, with a date against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands on Sunday with another quarterback trying to prove himself -- albeit again.

Brett Favre put on a show in his New York debut Sunday, a 20-14 win over a Miami team that won a single game a year ago.

Favre, starting his 255th straight regular-season game, is intelligent enough not to anoint his new squad the favorites in the now highly contested AFC East.

Even if oddsmakers are, favoring the Jets by one point.

"I think the Patriots are still the team to beat 'til proven otherwise," Favre said. "We won one game, and we barely beat Miami. ... One game doesn't make us the team to beat. I sure hope people don't feel that way."

I obviously don't.

And neither should you.

PATRIOTS, 27-17.

Oakland (plus 3 1/2) at Kansas City

Larry Johnson has a field day. CHIEFS, 31-14.

Green Bay (minus 3) at Detroit

Can I get an encore Mr. Rodgers? PACKERS, 38-20.

Tennessee (plus 1) at Cincinnati

Cincy is having issues. Vince Young and the Titans are facing more. BENGALS, 21-17.

Chicago (plus 3) at Carolina

Bears win over Indy was a fluke. So was the Panthers' over the Chargers. PANTHERS, 25-18.

Buffalo (plus 5 1/2) at Jacksonville

Bills come back to earth this week. JAGUARS, 33-18.

New Orleans (even) at Washington

Redskins have had nine days to regroup. REDSKINS, 28-24.

Indianapolis (minus 2) at Minnesota

Indy can't start 0-2. COLTS, 31-21.

N.Y. Giants (minus 8 1/2) at St. Louis

Another nightmare season for the Rams. GIANTS, 33-0.

San Francisco (plus 7) at Seattle

I can't believe I have to watch this game. SEAHAWKS, 28-13.

Miami (plus 6 1/2) at Arizona

Thank God I don't have to sit through this one. CARDINALS, 21-11.

Atlanta (plus 7) at Tampa Bay

Matt Ryan officially jump-starts his Rookie of the Year campaign. FALCONS, 24-17.

San Diego (minus 1 1/2) at Denver

The Chargers vaporized the Broncos, 41-3, in Denver last season, the Broncos worst home loss since 1966. Time to return the favor. BRONCOS, 35-10.

Pittsburgh (minus 6) at Cleveland

Steelers have won nine straight over Cleveland. Change is good. BROWNS, 34-28.


Baltimore (plus 4 1/2) at Houston

Ravens are 2-0 all-time against Houston. Third time's a charm. TEXANS, 17-13.

Philadelphia (plus 7) at Dallas

What position is Jessica Simpson playing? Tight end? COWBOYS, 27-21.

LAST WEEK: 6-10 (spread); 8-8 (straight up)

SEASON: 6-10 (spread); 8-8 (straight up)

Comments and criticisms may be sent to Clarion sports reporter Matthew Carroll at

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