LONGSHOTS: Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
by Dave Long
There’s one good thing about the miserable game Matt Cassel had in Sunday’s 33-10 loss to Pittsburgh. After his throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice, people can’t tell me I’m getting carried away by a great game.
The “what should the Patriots do with their unrestricted free agent to be?” chatter was all the rage last week after he registered only the fifth back-to-back 400-yard passing days in NFL history. It was a big topic on WEEI, where The Big Show, as usual, belittled or dismissed anyone who didn’t agree with what it says. Thus, while it wasn’t as bad as with Dallas Morning News baseball writer Evan Grant, who deserved it, they worked over anyone who said the Patriots ought to sign Cassel and trade Tom Brady to prevent him from leaving without getting anything back in return.
Not that there aren’t dimwit callers to that station — believe me, there are. And I do love the disclaimer used prior to the entertaining Whiner Line that says “don’t blame us for what these nitwits say.” But while trading the face of the franchise in lieu of a player with 11 games as a starter under his belt is, to say the least, a radical move, listening to them dis the idea made me think of how Colin Powell must have felt as he was being shouted down by the hawks in the Oval Office when he said going into Iraq was not such a good idea.”
On the crew that day was Herald columnist Steve Buckley, who once wanted Paul Pierce traded now! after embarrassing post- game behavior in the playoffs a few years back. Then there’s Pete Sheppard, whose “Lock of the Day” was wrong so often they yanked it off the air, because its being wrong turned out to be the real Lock of the Day. But the biggest perpetrator was host Glen Ordway, who, while very good, isn’t always right either, as evidenced by two thoughts for the ’08 baseball season. The first brought to mind the famous Jim Mora “playoffs, PLAYOFFS!!!” line when I heard him pick perennially underachieving Toronto to finish ahead of the Sox, and the second was saying all last winter putting Jon Lester in a deal for Johan Santana was a no-brainer. So they’re hardly infallible.
But hey, everyone besides me, of course, gets one wrong now and then — which is part of the fun in arguing about sports. But refusing to consider the notion seems like the auto industry thinking all is well, as they took short-term profits from the gas- guzzlers while trouble loomed on the horizon.
And that’s the case with the Patriots, I fear. A team 7-5 this morning, more so because the aging defense can’t get a stop when it’s needed, than because the great Brady played less than 10 minutes all year. And it’s going to be worse next year unless they find a way in this year’s draft to get two solid corners, the immediate or eventual replacements for Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, along with the cap space to re-sign Vince Wilfork. Not even the Steelers’ vaunted 1974 draft that netted Hall of Famers Lynn Swan, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster did that, so they’ll need be creative to keep the dynasty on track.
So while I know how good Brady is and what he means to the team and I don’t want it to happen just ’cause I like him, though not quite in the unsettling hero-worshiping way Sheppard seems to — they need to consider all options going forward. And one is what they could get for Brady because he’s the biggest chip they have. So here are a few questions to answer in considering the value of doing that:
When did you know Brady should be the permanent starter? Personally, I thought he should be before Drew got hurt. But I was certain after seeing him vs. the Chargers, Bengals and Colts in his first four or five games.
When did you know he was going to turn into Tom Brady? Not sure I knew just how good he’d be, but I was sure he’d be a star after the playoff game with Oakland.
How good can Cassel be? That’s what the big boys like Coach B, Josh McDaniel and Scott Pioli get paid to determine. I’m not sure, but he’s played as well to this point as Brady did in his first 12 games as a starter (though with more weapons) and the numbers back it up.
What percentage of what Brady will be the next few years does Cassel have to reach to let you pull the trigger on such a deal? For some it will only be 100 percent, which isn’t likely. So what is it — 95, 90, 85, 80? My answer is it depends on just how good your defense and other weapons are.
Can you win a Super Bowl with 80 percent of Brady? Not in the first 14 Super Bowls, where 13 of the winners were led by a QB who went to the Hall and the other, Kenny Stabler, should be in. But after that only Joe Montana was Hall-worthy among the next 11 winners. Baltimore did it with Trent Dilfer, the Giants with back-up Jeff Hostetler and Mark Rypien was Washington’s guy in 1992. So the answer is yes.
Have teams ever survived trading a star of Brady’s caliber? Ever heard of Wayne Gretsky? After leading Edmonton to four Stanley Cups he was traded to L.A. for two young players, three first-round picks and, oh by the way, $15 million. While L.A. did knock the Oilers out of the playoffs the next year, he never won the Cup again, while Edmonton won two years later. Then there’s Montana, who got traded to K.C. after being supplanted by Steve Young while injured. The Niners never missed a beat, while even Montana’s magic couldn’t overcome the Marty Schottenheimer playoff curse in K.C.
What is the Godfather offer you can’t refuse? For Jimmy Johnson it was eight picks, including (eventually) three first-rounders when the Vikings asked about Herschel Walker, who they thought was the missing piece to get them over the hump. It didn’t. But it got Johnson Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson and Russell Maryland, who played a big role in the Boys’ winning three times in four years. For me it might be two firsts, two seconds along with linebacker Patrick Willis from San Francisco. If I can’t get something like that, then I’m not doing it.
And if the guys on the Big Show don’t think Coach B, the smartest guy in sports, is going to think of it that way in the off-season, they’re farther off than most of Sheppard’s picks for Lock of the Day.
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.