Matt Cassel was supposed to make his return to New England this week
When the season schedule was released, two thoughts went through my mind
1. I hope we have an NFL season (remember, it was still the lockout)
2. What games are most intriguing?
There is a difference between “good” and “intriguing”. Good games are games such as the Jets games or the Eagles game, games that look as if will be between two teams at the top of their games. An intriguing game has a secondary story that we want to see play out. The Giants game would be a good example of this because it was the rematch of Super Bowl XLII (excuse me while I bang my head against my desk). Another of the intriguing games was supposed to be this week, and I write “supposed to” because some other factors have come into play.
This week’s Monday night football game at home against the Kansas City Cheifs was supposed to be the return of Matt “King of the” Cassel to Foxboro. The guy who hadn’t even started a game since his high-school football career jumped in for the injured Tom Brady in 2008 and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record and should have made the playoffs. The season basically told the NFL “damn, this guy could be a starter elsewhere”. While he hasn’t had nearly the same success as he did that season (Also, he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker) he has been a productive starter. This Monday was supposed to be the day that the Patriots fans could stand up and cheer for Matt Cassel and thank him for his effort that year and his part as a member of the Patriots family.
Until Matt Cassel got hurt and Tyler Palko was going to start the game instead.
Which is sad because Cassel deserved to be a part of this game. I was in the stands the day Brady got hurt and my first thought was “Please, not Cassel”. It’s a moot point now, but Cassel was awful that preseason. He was so bad that there was talk that third string quarterback Matt Gutierrez should be the back-up instead of Cassel. Cassel, however, improved week to week. By the time mid-season came around and he passed for 400 yards in two straight games against the Jets and the Dolphins (including one of the most perfect throws I have ever seen thrown to force OT against the Jets) Patriots fans knew they had a starting quarterback. On top of that, the fact that he was the back-up gave this team a certain swagger. They were a plucky bunch, always fighting and clawing to win games and prove that they should get a chance in the playoffs. Before the Oakland game, Cassel’s father passed away. He responded by going 18-30 with 218 yards and four touchdowns. Everyone wants to talk about Brett Favre coming out and playing against Oakland after the death of his father, but Cassel’s performance could be called almost as extraordinary.
Cassel played so well that there was talk about what direction the Patriots should move in. Tom Brady’s recovery from ACL surgery was incredibly tumultuous including multiple infections and rehab set backs. There was discussion that maybe they should hold on to Cassel for one more year no matter the price, just in case. The Patriots eventually franchised him, but then sent him and Mike Vrabel to Kansas City for the 34th overall pick. He struggled in his first season, but came back strong in season two of his Chiefs tenure, leading the team to the playoffs.
In the week that was supposed to be the return to New England for Matt Cassel, it just isn’t too be. If Matt Cassel can’t get the pregame standing ovation he deserves, I guess he’ll have to settle for a blog post.