LONGSHOTS: Cassel’s in the clouds compared to early expectations
by Dave Long
Other than a blip on the screen at the beginning of the year when Tom Brady went down, football has flown under the radar in this space thanks mainly to the baseball season. That’s kind of weird when you realize I like football a lot more than baseball. And while my friend the Red Sox lover Pete Tarrier (line) is usually in denial when I say this, it’s ditto for the Pats over the Sox too, where it ain’t even close.
So with the season nine games in, it’s time to rectify that situation with a variety of thoughts on the subject as the Patriots ready themselves for playing in real football weather as the stretch run for the playoffs looms on the horizon. So here goes:
I know I’m nit-picking here, but, starting with the Super Bowl, I would say the three worst game-management games by Coach B in the Belichick era have come in the last nine games, when mental mistakes have contributed to losses to the Giants, Chargers and Indy 10 days ago.
But as a counter, here’s In Bill We Trust version 1121.0: you have to give it to him for sticking with Matt Cassel after that pre-season when most in the crowd wanted someone (anyone) else backing up Brady in 2008. I know I did.
And while on that subject, here’s the above-the-Tarrier-Line stat offering of the week. It compares Brady’s first nine games as a starter to Cassel’s. Brady had 14 TD passes to Cassel’s seven, but in yards (1,806 to 1,800), interceptions (7-7) and quarterback rating (86.5 to 83.9) it’s a virtual wash. Plus it’s dead even in the standings at 6-3. The only real difference is that Brady was turning around a team that was 0-2 when he took over and 5-11 the year before, while Cassel had the pressure of replacing the production of a QB who threw 50 TD passes the year before. So you tell me — who’s had the more impressive first nine games?
Another reason to like Barack Obama. He told Chris (can you smell the rubber) Berman during half-time of Monday Night Football on the eve of the election he favored a college football playoff for I-A. Still I doubt it will move my friend Not So Liberal Lou DeMato, who’s the last holdout on the planet without a financial interest in seeing the antiquated bowl system go the away.
Wonder if he’d still be against it if Ron Paul came out strongly for one.
If you don’t think the BCS system is stupid, then tell me how USC dropped from fifth to seventh in the rankings the day after it won 51-0? I don’t care if Washington is terrible, it’s a conference opponent they have to play and a big-time program.
I’ll point out to those on the left trying to blame this on him too, the Bush administration had nothing to do with propping up the current Bowl system. After all, GW’s a baseball guy — which you could easily tell when he was in the ESPN booth with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on opening day in Washington last April. And in the current spirit of bipartisan cooperation let me tell all he was very good that night.
Anyone know that the point man on the Wall Street socialistic bailout, Treasury Secretary (just call me) Hank Paulson, played college football in Hanover during Dartmouth’s heyday in the 1960s? He was good enough to be an All-East offensive tackle in 1967 and a starter on its undefeated Lambert Trophy-winning team that was a landslide winner in voting over national powers Penn State and Syracuse for best team in the East in 1965. That says how much college football has changed since those days.
He also gave Dartmouth two million bucks a while back to establish the Robert L. Blackman Endowed Coaching Position in memory of the man behind their great success.
Football 101 Quiz: Anyone besides UL political maven John DiStaso and me know what local politico was manager of those great Dartmouth teams Paulson starred for?
While not quite an “I told-you so,” it’s close. I have said for many years in limited use the single wing formation — last seen in the NFL in the 1940s — could succeed in the NFL today. Those I said it to said it was a relic of the past. But that’s exactly what a number of teams are messing with after the Dolphins flummoxed the Patriots with it in Week Three.
That should tell you that sooner or later everything comes back into fashion — though when bell bottoms make their comeback, I still ain’t wearing them.
With the Packers just 4-5 after Sunday’s loss and the Jets 6-3 and the highest-scoring team in the AFC, do you think Green Bay regrets being so stubborn this summer in the Brett Favre fiasco?
I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but the playoff race in the AFC is really going to be a scramble. Especially now that Indy is playing like, well, Indy. As it stands today, the Pats, Steelers, Titans and Broncos would be in, with the wild card race having the Ravens and Jets at 6-3, Colts, Dolphins and Bills at 5-4 and Jaguars and Chargers at 4-5.
However, if this were The Tonight Show in the days when Paulson was banging heads with Cornell and Yale, Ed McMahon would ask Johnny Carson, “How bad is it, Johnny?” and Carson would say, “The AFC West is so bad, the Denver Broncos are in first place despite giving up more points than all but two teams in football and having scored 27 less than they’ve allowed.”
Football 101 Answer: The manager of those great Dartmouth teams in the mid-’60s was none other than Concord attorney to the GOP’s political stars, good guy Tom (have no) Rath.
How come no one is asking if the Titans can go undefeated? It was all the rage this time last year. Probably because the Patriots were blowing everyone out with a spectacular offensive display, while Tennessee does it with defense — which makes them more likely to do it in my opinion.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.