Sunday, November 30, 2008

Who Needs Brady's MVPs When You Have Cassel's Pretty, Pretty Numbers

One day, I was driving with a friend when someone cut us off and nearly missed his front right bumper. My usually volatile friend must have been in a good mood because he calmly said the following, "You know what my biggest problem is, other people's stupidity. I have no control over it."

As Americans and sports fans, we are reminded of the profound, simple wisdom of my buddy's words.

No, I'm not talking about Sarah Palin being a viable Vice Presidential candidate.

I'm not even talking about Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan night club.

I'm talking about a story I saw on the National Football League Network's pregame show. A story about the New England Patriot fans. You know, that paradigm of intelligent and sophisticated fanhood in the Northeast. The same fanbase that switches a Pats' parka in the winter for a Red Sox cap in the summer. The more obnoxious of which spend most of their sports-related time instructing others as to what it means to be a real fan.

If the story is true, they are beginning to rumble about franchising Matt Cassel in order to trade Tom Brady.

Let me say that again, there is a movement taking shape to trade Tom Brady.

I'm hoping the story was ridiculous and a fabrication. Just another attempt by the media to start a tempest in a teapot where none exists. If it's not, there is simply no way for that region to ever recover its credibility. At least with regard to football.

First, let's dispel with these ridiculous comparisons between the Matt Cassel-Tom Brady situation and the Steve Young-Joe Montana one that confronted the San Francisco 49ers. Regardless of what you think about the talent/potential of the players involved, Joe Montana was 37 by the time he started his first game for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tom Brady is 31. Six years is a long time in the real world. In the NFL, it is a lifetime.

Second, let's really consider the hysterical dementia that's closing its fist around New England according to the NFL Network. Matt Cassel may be an elite quarterback. He seems to have gotten better with every start. He's putting up great numbers and has the Patriots on the brink of the postseason in what many thought would be a lost campaign. Cassel's currently sitting on back-to-back 400+ yard passing games, an achievement the media gleefully trumpets because Brady has yet to do so.

And yet, this lunacy can be dismissed as easily as three-time Super Bowl Champion.

Debate over.

Of course, there's no need to stop the list of Brady's accolades at that. He's been the regular season Most Valuable Player, the Super Bowl MVP twice, and a four-time Pro Bowler. He owns the single-season record for passing touchdowns, a record he set in his first and only year to date with Randy Moss.

There simply is no comparison.

Against all Tom Brady has done for that franchise, Matt Cassel's strongest resume point is the 400 yard passing games. That's it. The problem is the Pats lost one of those games. At home to a division rival and a bitter one at that. The other problem is that Brady had games of 399 yards, 388 yards, and 380 yards last year. He also threw for 410 yards in 2002 without the luxury of Randy Moss.

The bigger problem is that it could all be a smoke screen.

Who has New England beaten? They have seven wins against the Chiefs, New York Jets, Niners, Denver Broncos, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins. There aren't too many impressive wins there except of the Jets, which was on the road. But that loses some luster because the win came early in the season before Brett Favre had really acclimated to the system.

It loses considerably more luster because a synchronized Favre and Jets team was the bitter rival that withstood Cassel's first 400-yard game in Foxborough.

Look at the four losses: on the road against a struggling San Diego Chargers, on the road against the formidable Indianapolis Colts, at home against the Miami Dolphins/Wildcats, and the aforementioned Jets game.

I don't really see a win that should surprise anyone on that list. And maybe there aren't any losses that should surprise anyone. SD is still playing well at home, there's never any shame in losing to Indy, and the other two are both divisional rivals.

But that still means that Matt Cassel is simply beating teams he should beat and losing to teams that pose challenges. That becomes a bigger issue when you consider he has no college resume of which to speak. That makes him an even bigger unknown.

I said before he could be an elite QB in the NFL. He could just as easily be a one-year, right-system wonder.

Yet, if the NFL Network is to be believed, the loyal in the New England area have seen enough.

Forget the Super Bowls, MVPs, records, and all-time greatness of Tom Brady.

Who needs that when you've got a guy throwing 400 yards every game?

Of course, Tom Brady's a Bay Area guy. He's in his prime and the Niners currently trot Shaun Hill out to take snaps. What am I complaining about?

You know what? New England's right.

Matt Cassel is definitely a better option for the future of the franchise.

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