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Brady vs. Cassel: Tale of the Tape

by: Nick Scofield

With Tom Brady saying he will be ready for the start of the 2009 season and talks about Matt Cassel receiving the franchise tag, making him one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL, there could be a quarterback controversy brewing in New England. The question is, with the success of Cassel coming off the bench to lead the Patriots to the brink of the payoffs and Brady coming back to assume his starting role again, who do you go with? Both quarterbacks came up big when team expectations were low. Both came off the bench to take over for an injured starter and both turned heads as great players in the National Football League. By comparing Cassel’s 2008 season with Brady’s 2001 season, we could determine who might be the better go-to guy.

Regular Season Performance:

Brady started 14 games for the Patriots in 2001 and guided the team to an 11-3 record, after stepping up for the injured Drew Bledsoe near the end of their Week 2 game against the New York Jets. Cassel came in just eight minutes into the Patriots Week 1 game against the Kansas City Chiefs when Brady went down with his season-ending knee injury. In 15 games as a started, Cassel went 10-5. Since the expectations of both quarterbacks were low, because of their previous lack of playing time, both of them came through when their teams needed them the most, so I can’t really give either quarterback points on this aspect.
Advantage: Push

Supporting Cast:

Cassel had the high-powered offensive machine that Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels originally set up for Brady. Cassel had Pro-Bowler Wes Welker to throw to and a great receiving corps of Randy Moss and Jabar Gaffney as well. In the backfield, Cassel had Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvis Green-Ellis to stimulate the ground game. Brady had very few offensive weapons to go to in his 2001 campaign. Faulk was with the Patriots, but the receiving corps consisted of Troy Brown, David Patten, Jermaine Wiggins and Ron Rutledge. His rushing attack consisted of Antoine Smith, Marc Edwards and J.R. Redmond. The 2001 Patriots were expected to finish in last place in their division, but Brady put together a miracle season. Cassel took the reins of a high-powered Patriots offense and guided it to the brink of a playoff berth, only to be snubbed at the end of the season. I have to give this one to Brady, because he made the most out of a skeletal offense at best. While Cassel did a good job filling in at quarterback this past season, he didn’t have to be as resourceful.
Advantage: Brady

Season Stats:

Up until last season, Brady didn’t put up astronomical numbers. With his 2001 offense, one could debate that Brady did only what he had to do to win. Brady completed 264 of 413 passes for 2,843 yards, 18 touchdowns, a 63.9 completion percentage and a rating of 86.5. Even when his offense got better around him, Brady didn’t put up huge numbers. However, he usually did find a way to win in the end. Cassel has shown his ability to win in tight games against Seattle, the Jets, and in the last three games of the season against Oakland, Arizona and Buffalo to keep their playoff hopes alive. In 2008, Cassel completed 327 of 516 passes for 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns, with a 63.4 completion percentage and a rating of 89.4. Those numbers aren’t bad for any NFL quarterback, let alone a backup who only took a handful of snaps in his career. I have to give this advantage to the new boss.
Advantage: Cassel

Best Game: Some might say that Brady had the best game of the 2001 season during the playoffs or the Super Bowl, but according to the numbers, Brady had his best game against the San Diego Chargers at Foxboro in Week 5. In that game, Brady completed 33 of 54 passes for 364 yards, 2 touchdowns and a rating of 93.4. Cassel’s best game of this past season, according to the numbers, came in the November rematch against the Miami Dolphins on the road. Cassel was 30 of 43 passing for 415 yards, threw three touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 114. While Brady had to overcome a 10 point deficit against the Chargers to force overtime and eventually win, we didn’t know Brady as a reliable starter, let alone someone who we would later rely on for fourth quarter comebacks. Cassel had already proven himself earlier in the season and his three touchdowns and higher QB rating gives him a slight advantage over Brady.
Advantage: Cassel


This is an easy one. Brady let the Patriots into the Super Bowl, where they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the game’s history. The Patriots rallied to an 11-5 record and wins against Oakland and Pittsburgh to get to the Super Bowl. This year’s Patriots equaled the 11-5 record and even though Cassel did his best to lead the Patriots to the playoffs, they ended up on the outside looking in. Even though it wasn’t Cassel’s fault, he had trouble getting rid of the ball when he was in trouble and was sacked 47 times (6 less than Brady). New England had chances against the Colts and Jets to win games, but let the games slip away from them. Although an 11-5 record will get you into the post-season most years, the Patriots were watching the 8-8 Chargers play for a chance at the Super Bowl. The 2001 Patriots wasn’t much to look at either, but they did something the 2008 Patriots did not. They finished the job.
Advantage: Brady

In the end, it’s still a tossup between the veteran quarterback and the upstart who filled in for him. If Brady can recover in time for the season, fans will definitely welcome back their war-tested hero. But if Brady is still not able to come back from his knee injury, I wouldn’t be disappointed to see Cassel taking the snaps under center. The Patriots really need both quarterbacks to get back to the Super Bowl and Coach Belichick needs to figure out how to restock his roster and coaching staff to get back. We still have a few months before training camp, but I wouldn’t take my eyes off the Patriots anytime soon.


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