Sunday, September 14, 2008

There's a Place for Matt Cassell in Here Somewhere

Baseball and football comparisons are dangerous. Nevertheless, it is worth nothing that the Red Sox, a very good team, subtracted Manny Ramirez, a great hitter, from their lineup and replaced him with Jason Bay, a nice player, and kept on winning.

That is, after all, all the Patriots want Matt Cassel to be-a nice player. Make a few plays to keep the chains moving. Get the ball to Randy every so often. Don't screw up. The the other guys do it. Were I Bill Belichick, I would have had Cassel watch Super Bowl XLII, with the message "Tom spent that game picking the grass out of his ears-and we still almost won. You don't have to be the hero."

Cassel could be an enormous flop. My point is, he's not auditioning for Canton this season. He is attempting to fit into a select group of 32 starting NFL quarterbacks-more than of whom, just like Matt, has the job because his team didn't have anybody else. He's entering as a newbie, but he's not in remedial signal-calling necessarily.

Let's review the NFL quarterback situation, leaving Cassel out.

AFC East

1. Jets. Brett Favre. Hall of Famer coming out of short retirement. If not in twilight of career, the Jets had better keep the lights on anyway.
2. Bills. Trent Edwards. Promising young player
3. Dolphins. Chad Pennington. Excellent player with serious health-related limitations, such as throwing the ball past 10 yards.

AFC North

1. Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger. Excellent quarterback.
2. Bengals. Carson Palmer. Ditto.
3. Browns. Derek Anderson. One good year.
4. Ravens. Joe Flacco. Rookie.

AFC South

1. Colts. Peyton Manning. Hall of Famer recovering from surgery.
2. Jaguars. David Garrard. Has been successful-in one year as starter.
3. Titans. Vince Young. Oy!
4. Texas. Matt Schaub. A classic great backup turned meh starter.

AFC West

1. Chargers. Philip Rivers. Very good player.
2. Broncos. Jay Cutler. Highly touted, but I don't see it.
3. Chiefs. Damon Huard. Why can't we get guys like that?
4. Raiders. JaMarcus Russell. Might as well be rookie.

NFC East

1. Cowboys. Tony Romo. Pro Bowler
2. Eagles. Donovan McNabb. Pro Bowler who gets hurt a lot.
3. Giants. Eli Manning. Super Bowl champ with, shall we say, an erratic history of past performance.
4. Redskins. Jason Campbell. Mediocre at best.

NFC South
1. Saints. Drew Brees. Good player.
2. Bucs. Brian Griese. Somewhere between journeyman and stiff.
3. Falcons. Matt Ryan. Rookie.
4. Panthers. Jake Delhomme. Good player who gets hurt a lot.

NFC North.
1. Packers. Aaron Rodgers. Making second NFL start today.
2. Vikings. Tahardtospell Jackson. The next Brian Griese.
3. Bears. Kyle Orton. Wishes he was as good as Brian Griese.
4. Lions. Jon Kitna. Probably the median member of this group.

NFC West
1. Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck. Quality player.
2. Rams. Marc Bulger. Good player, hard to tell on this team.
3. 49ers. J. T. O'Sullivan. Personally selected by Mike Martz. Enough said.
4. Cardinals. Kurt Warner. Weirdest career in NFL history. Averages out to journeyman.

There you have it. As a body, the NFL quarterbacks should not intimidate Cassell. This is a club where he can be a member. He doesn't need to be Brady. Hell, Cassell doesn't even need to be Eli Manning. If he can approximate the MEDIAN level of quarterback performance, that is, if he can be roughly as good as Jon Kitna, the Patriots will win the AFC East with ease.


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