Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Groganator

For all the complaining a segment of the Patriots fan base was doing a month ago about Matt Cassel (I did repeatedly recommend patience), the man has done something that no quarterback in the history of the team has done. Not Steve Grogan, not Drew Bledsoe, not even Tom Brady. Easily the three best quarterbacks in the history of the franchise.

He passed for back to back 400 yard games.

Given the fact that Bledsoe and Brady are the two most prolific passers in the history of the franchise, it's nothing short of amazing that this is the first time in franchise history that a quarterback has accomplished this feat. Of course, last week, in a losing effort, Cassel became the first and only QB in league history to rush for at least 60 yards and pass for at least 400.

While there are those who have wondered out loud whether Cassel should be kept in place of Brady during this two week record setting stretch that the Pats signal caller has had, I am not one of them. Yes, Cassel has shown tremendous development, and is actually better at this point than Brady was at the same point in his development as a starter.

Consider -

After 11 games in 2001, the Patriots were 6-5, but 7-4 in 11 games in which Brady played. Through those 11 games, this is how Brady stacked up -

198 completions on 302 attempts (65.6 percent completions) with 16 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. Brady also rushed the ball 25 times for 36 yards and no touchdowns.

If you want to throw out the Jets game because he was only in for a couple of series, and include, instead, the Browns game so we're only looking at Brady starts, then we're looking at 8-3 through 11 Brady starts with the following numbers -

212 completions on 320 attempts for (66.25 percent) with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He rushed 29 times for 33 yards.

Cassel through his 11 games (10.75), is 238 of 359 (66.3 percent), with 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Cassel has also rushed 53 times for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns. The team has improved to 7-4.

While it is important to note that Cassel is indeed working with a better receiving corps than Brady did in those years, it's just as important to note that Brady was not playing behind a makeshift (right side of the offensive) line for the first half of those ten or eleven games, nor was he playing through games with the team's top running backs on the shelf for a significant period of time.

That 2001 team's defense gave up an average of 16.625 points per game, meanwhile this year's edition went into this game giving up 19.4. That number went up to 20.2 by the end of the contest against the 'Phins.

Not a reassuring statistic as the team makes a playoff push.

They might make things interesting in the post-season (I still firmly believe they will make the big dance for the chance at the Super Bowl), but if that young defense (and they are young) doesn't figure out how to close out a team on third and long, they're likely to get eliminated before reaching Tampa in February.

But if they don't make it, it won't be Cassel's fault.

Reminiscent of Steve Grogan, Cassel seems to have improved at finding his check-downs and feeling when the pressure is imminent. He's begun to make plays with his feet to either buy time, or to take advantage of great gaping holes up the middle.

Most of all, Cassel has used this opportunity to hit the jackpot.

An unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Cassel is likely to be closely scrutinized by a number of teams which are likely to do two things - line his pockets, and put him behind an O-line that could get him killed. I'm figuring the only potential suitor that could be a good fit (ie: not get Cassel killed) is going to go through the same hostage situation that Green Bay did this past off-season, and likely stay out of the Cassel sweepstakes because of the Brett Favre potential cap hit. Otherwise, I think Cassel is looking at such bottom-feeding stalwarts as Detroit, Kansas City, San Francisco and depending on the contract situation of their incumbents, I could also see St. Louis, or possibly Seattle come calling (the last two are unlikely due to the money left on the contracts of Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck respectively, but interest wouldn't surprise me).


David Sullivan said...

It does remind me of the Pats circa 1978...Grogan hands off to Tatupu who tosses it back to Grogan who hits a streaking Morgan down the sideline for an eighty yard touchdown...

Kevin Smith said...

Loved watching Grogan play. This team actually reminds me a little bit of those teams. They kind of have me walking down memory lane.

David Sullivan said...

Grogan is my favorite player of all time because he made some horrible teams entertaining unlike the pussys Plunkett and Eason.

Anonymous said...

While I would have loved to see the 'fins pull another one off, i am pleased none the less with this years turn around. What do you think that chances are of the Pats hanging on to Cassel and Brady losing his starting job?

Kevin Smith said...

The only way the Pats keep both is if Brady's rehab takes a bad turn and there are doubts that Brady could A) be ready for the season B) be effective again, or both. Otherwise, I think Cassel goes and gets rich with another team.

Chris Stone said...

okay okay.... I was wrong about Cassell. He has always been a decent game manager, and now he's evolving into a decent quarterback. He still is no Tom Brady.... but then many winning quarterbacks aren't.

One of my thoughts about the injury to Tom Brady was, it couldn't have happened at a better time... at the start of the season so there is enough time to sort out the quarterback solution. The offense is still, pretty much, the same as last year. Cassell has got the best situation to evolve in... and he has met the challenge.

Kevin Smith said...

Like I said before, most of Patriot Nation was pretty much of the same mentality about Brady, which was why there was so much speculation at the end of that season that Brady, being the inexperienced QB, would be trade bait.

Would I keep Cassel over Brady, like the Pats did with Brady over Bledsoe? Only if there were serious questions about Brady coming back from this injury. Otherwise, Cassel will bring draft picks - either compensatory, or in a trade.

And I never have said that he's Brady or better than Brady. I have pointed out that, developmentally, he's farther along in his first season as a starter than Brady was (keeping in mind that Brady only has three more passing touchdowns because of sure touchdown passes dropped by Moss [2], and Gaffney [1] - and all of those should have been caught, and at least one of them would have changed the result of one of the games). Without the drops, Cassel has 18 TD's on the season (including two rushing).

His production has actually been really impressive - 8th in yardage, tied for 10th in rating, 6th in total completions, 7th in completion percentage, 8th in attempts, tied for 11th in yards per game, 8th in yards per attempt for QB's who have played all 11 games, and tied for 11th in touchdown passes. That's not bad.