Saturday, November 15, 2008

Field General Economics 101

Someday, one hopes at least 70 years in the future when I'm long gone, the time will come for the reading of Matt Cassel's will. One hopes the probate attorney begins the proceedings by running a tape of the Jets-Patriots game of November 13, 2008, because that's why the reading will be well attended and why probateland will refer to Cassel's worldly goods as "the Cassel estate.

Ever wonder why men born and bred for leadership bear the indignities of being a backup NFL quarterback? You don't get to be Dick Cheney in that job, after all. Ask no more. Cassel has demonstrated it's a matter of arithmetic.

There are 32 NFL franchises, which means there are 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. And there are less than 32, somewhere between 20-25, who can do the job well enough so that their team has a decent chance of winning a game without the other 44 guys on the active roster playing out of their minds.

Many Patriots, most of them on defense, did not play out of their minds last Thursday. They stunk. And yet New England almost won the game, and would have had the coin flip for overtime come up differently, because of Cassel's performance, which was tremendous in every respect. Tom Brady is a better QB by a mile, but believe me, Brady would never have run for 62 yards in a game. He knows better. Cassel has the creative ability fueled by the desperate knowledge that this is his one and only shot at professional legitimacy.

By delivering proof that you can win with Matt Cassel (Note: Not all the time, not half the time, but just once is more than some quarterbacks can claim, right JaMarcus?) Cassel has made his fortune. As Adam Smith must love, Cassel's a free agent after this season. Either the Patriots or some other team, likely the latter, will pay him a starting quarterback's wages, that is, a sum to set up him and several generations of future Cassels for life.

Way back in the spring of 2005, just before I was what seems to be permanently separated from sports journalism, I interviewed Cassel at his rookie mini-camp. It was meant to be a light-hearted, not mean, cheap shot column - the guy who'd been a backup his whole career, holding a clipboard for Heisman Trophy winners at USC, and now drafted to hold Brady's clipboard. Did he have a hidden NEED to wear baseball caps backwards?

I noted, although the column I wrote did not adequately reflect the fact, that Cassel was a true quarterback. He believed in himself and his ability to lead others more than most folks believe in gravity. His competitive nature was such that missing an elevator could ruin his whole day. He was not a second banana. He hated every minute of the second bananadom life had sent him. Yet at the same time, Cassel was using that time to get ready for the top bananadom he KNEW, like we all know gravity exists, would come his way.

The bananadom arrived. And Cassel has handled it quite nicely, thank you. He ain't Brady. Who is? Among the reasons the Pats are 6-4, Cassel isn't number one. He's not in the top 10.

Barring catastrophic injury, Matt Cassel is going to get real rich sometime in 2009. Adam Smith approves. Me, too, And my reasons include a lot more than my belief in capitalism.


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