March 5, 2009


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LONGSHOTS: In Bill we still trust?
by Dave Long

Well, the deal putting an end to what the Patriots should or would do at the quarterback position came down during the weekend. That’s when not-so-old friend Scott Pioli made his first deal as head man in KC by getting Matt Cassel AND Mike Vrabel for the 34th pick overall in the upcoming NFL draft.

That turned out to be a head-scratcher for some, including me, and here is a series of thoughts that have gone on in my mind since the deal was made:

The first reaction was that Tom Brady’s recovery must be fine if they were willing to move him so soon. So yippee!

The second was: Are you kidding me?!!! Where’s Scott Boras when you need him? Because if this is all they could wrangle out of the NFL for a rising quarterback and aging player with the qualities of Vrabel they need someone else doing the negotiating. If the deal winds up as is with nothing to follow, it’s a major swindle for the Pioli as it looks like Coach B panicked and blew it.

Here’s how Don Banks described it in “but the second-round pick compensation the Chiefs gave up for both Cassel and fellow Patriot, linebacker Mike Vrabel, is so laughably low that we must ask whether Bill Belichick has grown soft before our very eyes.”

My suspicion is he made the lopsided deal to quickly clear the cap space Cassel was clogging to let him be active in the free agent market. So maybe I should hold judgment until we see how well he maneuvers with that new space in the weeks leading to the draft.

But it seems like there has to be more, though here’s what Bank’s colleague Peter King had to say about the deal on Sunday: “Bill Belichick either didn’t get a better offer, or he did one of his best friends, Pioli, a favor with a player Belichick wanted to put in a good situation; Belichick is very fond of Cassel. It would not be surprising to see Belichick make the deal with Pioli because both were trained under Bill Parcells, and Parcells always made sure he watched out for his lieutenants and helped them whenever it didn’t hurt him.”

But not getting a better offer was contradicted in his own publication, which, along with several others, reported he turned down the 12th pick overall in a deal that would have sent Jay Cutler to Tampa and reunited Cassel with Josh McDaniel in Denver. That seems incredible to me.

I’ll buy the haste to clear cap space, but I am not buying there was no market. Not with Tavaris Jackson still at QB in Minnesota and huge holes at that spot in Chicago, Detroit, SF and Tampa Bay — not to mention in New York with the Jets.

I’m also not buying the Pats he did a favor for Pioli. In fact, I think it may be the other way around. Tell me if you think Coach B is dumb enough to pass on the 12th pick in lieu of the 34th while also giving up Vrabel — unless a future wink, wink deal is coming with KC that’s more favorable to him?

But if that’s all he could get while giving up an important piece of the fading defense, I’m even more convinced that they should have shopped Brady to see what they could have gotten. First, they need more help on defense than the 34th pick can provide. Second, I’m convinced you can win a Super Bowl with Cassel (as apparently are Pioli and Daniels), so why not see what you can get for Brady? If it’s not enough, take the 34th for Cassel, but if it’s a lot, do it.  

Here’s a trade made and one not made that should make you wonder if what I’m saying makes sense:

Brett Favre to Green Bay: I’m not saying Cassel is going to be as good as Favre. But I doubt Green Bay thought he’d turn into the player he did when they got him and I know Atlanta didn’t since all they got back was a number two for the then second-year player. But he did turn into Brett Favre as Atlanta sank to the bottom of the league (except in 1998) after one of the biggest heists in league history. It’s not quite the same thing, as Tom Brady is light years better than Chris Miller and Billy Joe Tolliver, who the Falcons kept over Favre. But the fact is the Falcons paid a big price for trading the wrong guy while Green Bay reaped the windfall. 

Ladainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner: Not the same position, but a case of a team sticking with a big star over an emerging understudy when the walk year came after he had real success filling in for that star. Turner then went to Atlanta and ran for 1,699 yards and 17 TDs while LT had 1,110 and 12 TDs in ’08. Not bad, but not worth the highest-paid back in the NFL. And that’s why there are rumblings the Chargers will ask him to take a pay cut, or they’ll cut him just a year after letting the younger Turner walk. That doesn’t sound like real great long-term planning to me. Branch Rickey’s great line still applies today and particularly in the case of the 30-in-June LT, “I’d rather trade a guy a year too soon than a year too late,” because if they’d kept Turner and traded LT they’d have gotten a boatload of picks and probably even have had enough left over to get the franchised Darren Sprowls for a lot less than they are paying him now. 

Johan Santana for Jon Lester (Jacoby Ellsbury): Glenn Ordway and the boys said this was a no-brainer, just as they have in the Brady-vs.-Cassel debate, because they always take the sure thing over the rising prospect. And while there is merit to that, it’s not ALWAYS right. Lester demonstrated that last year by having a year every good as Santana’s, which included a no-hitter and a one-hitter, as he made $20 million less and is six years younger. And even though they lost out, the money saved let the Sox get into the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, which might not have been the case if Santana had been on board. 

We’ll need a few years to judge how it all turns out, but the one thing I’m sure of is that in five years when the subject comes up of getting just the 34th pick overall for Cassel, while having to throw Vrabel in as well, Pats fans will be rolling their eyes in the same way Red Sox Nations does when the names Jeff Bagwell and Larry Anderson come up in the same conversation.

Back to my second reaction — you’ve got to be kidding me.

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.

2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill

2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
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
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
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
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
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
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
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9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
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
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
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
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
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

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
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