Watching football on television on Sunday afternoons is the inalienable right of every American. Last Sunday I settled into my favorite easy chair, with beverage and chips at my side, and anxiously waited for my beloved Patriots to open their season by thumping the Kansas City Chiefs. It would be the first step on the Patriots' road to redemption for their Super Bowl failure last year.
The New England Patriots' season went up in flames less than 15 minutes into the first quarter of the first game of the season when quarterback Tom Brady suffered a knee injury which ended his season. Brady had one of the best seasons, if not the best, of any quarterback in NFL history when he threw a record 50 touchdown passes last year and led the Patriots to a 16-0 regular season record. His replacement will be Matt Cassel, who has not started a game since high school. I hate to tell the Patriots, but I have not started a game since high school.
Matt Cassel is the Patriots' plan B. The Pats are risking their season on a quarterback who threw exactly seven passes last year. They are scrambling to put together a plan C and have invited the well traveled Chris Simms to come in for an audition.
Bret Favre is a marvel as he has started 254 games in a row plus an additional 22 in the playoffs. Tom Brady had started 129 straight. As the game becomes faster and the players bigger, more and more quarterbacks are being injured. When an NFL linebacker hits a quarterback on a blitz something has to give. Linebackers can move at about 15 miles an hour in short bursts. Just go stand out in the street and let your spouse run into you with the car at 15 miles an hour. It’s not a pretty thought.
The Patriots have done just about everything right during the last seven or eight years. They have drafted the right people and signed the correct free agents. Their first critical mistake may have been assuming that Tom Brady was indestructible.
Who knows? Maybe Bill Belichick is smarter than people think? Maybe Matt Cassel will be the best thing since sliced bread? Receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker are two of the best in the business. Cassel will also be surrounded by a Super Bowl-caliber team. Last Sunday Cassel completed 13 of 18 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown against the below average Chiefs. The Patriots may still reach the playoffs as they compete in a weak division but Bret Favre and the Jets are licking their chops.
In poker terms the Patriots have gone all in with Matt Cassel and there are a lot of teams waiting to see if they are bluffing.