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March 2, 2009

[Business Day One] This Isn’t Bad, So Don’t Worry

Filed under: Business Day One,Football — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 11:18 am

First off, if you haven’t put in your nominations, do that now.  You’re the Academy, people, and it’s a serious responsibility.

Alright, moving on to football matters.  The Patriots said goodbye to Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel, shipping them off to Kansas City for a second round pick.  At first blush, it appeared as if the Pats somehow fleeced new KC Bürgermeister Scott Pioli into giving the 34th pick for a 35 year old man who can, at this point, only sort of run and tackle.  But then Cassel was revealed to be part of the deal and the response from Boston (“Our team is run by fools!  Fools!”) was not entirely positive.

That’s why I’m here.  To tell you that it was for both parties.  The NFL is not like fantasy football.  You can’t hoodwink other teams in the NFL with the ease that you can hoodwink some fantasy greenhorn in his first season.  Especially when you’re dealing with a guy (Pioli) who knows everything about you and you know everything about.  The Patriots dumped a heck of a lot of salary and got an incredibly valuable early second round pick.  The Chiefs acquired a guy who can throw a football and another guy who has played long enough to be another coach in the locker room.  That’s a net win for both teams.  The Patriots don’t make their living on getting early first round picks, like the Chief’s third overall that some fans up here were salivating over.  Unless you were lucky enough to acquire Matt Ryan (let’s go Eagles… errrr Falcons), you’re overpaying for people who haven’t played a down of pro football.  The Pats don’t build their teams around early 1st round big guns – rather, they make sure every position is filled with guys that can hurt you.  If you’ve noticed, they won a bunch of  Super Bowls doing this.

The Patriots are picking 23rd, 34th, 47th, and 58th.  Four of the top 60 picks.  I’d rather have that than a 3rd overall, since you’d be paying the same amount of money for those four players than you would be for that single theoretical superplayer.  The Pats will always take the warm bodies, as opposed to the one hot one.  And, given the system that they work under, everyone gets really good at doing what they’re supposed to.

Look forward to the draft, Foxboro Faithful.  And look forward to a better year overall, Kansas City.

November 24, 2008

[Business Day One] The Last Cassel

Filed under: Business Day One,Football — Tags: , , , — Serpico @ 12:32 pm

Matt Cassel won’t be a Patriot next season. I just had to come right out and say it before the season grew any nearer to completion and the question would come up. Matt Cassel will be franchised, then traded for draft picks that will help New England in the years to come. As such, let me just say now that we should thank Cassel for the work he has done to salvage the season, and the work he will do in the future to strengthen the team in other positions of need like linebacker and defensive tackle.

This situation, which will unfold before the 2009 draft, is a testament to how good Tom Brady is. Cassel, who has been improving week over week, is now playing with the poise and confidence of a true team leader. And next year, he’s going to be compensated like one and will be a starter. It just won’t be in Foxboro. So enjoy him while you can, America, because next year he’ll be in Detroit or Tampa. I shall henceforth call the 2008 Patriots Season the Last Cassel.

October 13, 2008

[Business Day One] Lost Seasons And House Money

Filed under: Business Day One,Football — Tags: , , , — Serpico @ 11:14 am

I said Matt Cassel would be “fine” this season, and so far, he’s been just that. Not great. Not awful. Just fine. His stats so far support the assertion that’s he’s a perfectly average backup quarterback. Three touchdowns to four interceptions and a rating around 80. He’s playing exactly like a guy told specifically not to screw anything up. The trick is that each mounting loss will upset the merciless Boston sports media more and more, despite Cassel playing within his particular gameplan. Despite the fact that this loss could be hung on the cornerbacks as much as the quarterback, many fans (and the sports reporters that pander to them) don’t care so much about Deltha O’Neil and Ellis Hobbs as they do about the guy that replaced Tom Brady.

But I don’t think townsfolk with pitchforks are showing up at Gillette any time soon. Boston fans are an impatient bunch sometimes, but they’re not stupid. No one will demand Cassel be shackled and kept on the sidelines, since anyone who knows anything about Patriots football knows that no one else on roster can throw the ball. Backups-to-the-backup Matt Gutierrez and Kevin O’Connell aren’t the answer this season, and the drop-off from Brady to Cassel or anyone else will not be narrowed by any means. The fans know this, the media accepts this (though I’m sure they’ll write stories to the contrary when the Bills open up a three game lead in the division), and so this season has essentially become a “we’ll take anything” kind of season.

The Patriots are playing with house money now. With Brady down, everyone I know that owns a jersey with his name on it threw up their hands and lamented the soon-to-be 6-10 season. Anything above that is a pleasant surprise. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I see a town of rah-rahs if 9-7 and a wild card berth becomes the reality in a few months. Thankfully for everyone, the Sox are still alive in the playoffs. That’ll make any grim twists of fate go down a bit easier.

September 8, 2008

[Business Day One] The Quarterback Position

Filed under: Business Day One,Football — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 10:35 am

“I’m not trying to be Tom Brady. I’m just trying to be Matt Cassel. I don’t know where that’s going to take us.”

The press conference is going to be at 3 o’clock today, or so the reports say. I’m going to withhold any condemnations or statements of hope until then. And even at 3, I’ll probably still refrain because, in truth, no one knows what’s going to happen from here on out in Foxboro. In the fall of 2001, Mo Lewis caved in Drew Bledsoe’s chest and the keys to the Patriots war wagon were handed to a sixth rounder out of Ann Arbor. Folks cried out in anguish before the first of three Super Bowls rolled in later that year.

And now here were are, a few hours before news of what will become of the face (and arm) of the franchise. Everything that anyone has said so far about whether or not Brady will play again is pure speculation. All the analysis done so far is worth as much as the Word Document that they were written on. As of right now, all we know are that the Patriots are 1-0 and the back-up came in and played well.

But such is the nature of football. The quarterback position is the most important on the field by a decent margin during the game and the most important position by a massive margin in the media. Teams rise and fall with the signal caller, so when the signal caller falls, people start checking the life boats. That’s the nature of the game and the coverage of the game, and it’s nothing new. Unless the defense is setting records, all eyes are on the QB.

Three and a half hours away from the coach taking the podium, so I’m going to kill time by making a prediction. I write and my words appear on the internet, so I have as impressive a list of credentials as any other yahoo that is making a prediction. Here’s mine:

Matt Cassel is going to play superb football for the season and will take the Patriots deep into the playoffs. By Week 4, we’ll be thoroughly relieved and, while we’ll look forward to Brady returning next year (assuming, of course, he’s out for the season), we’re not going to start burning season tickets in Boston. The Patriots are a 10-6 team, and Matt Cassel completes 60% of his passes and has more TDs than INTs. You heard it here first. The Quarterback Position in New England will be fine.

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