December 4, 2008


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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 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.

11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving

11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
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12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
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11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
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9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
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6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
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12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
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11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
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10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
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03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
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A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

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Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat