Let me first mention that Matt Cassel hasn’t even played in two full NFL games. The chances of him being anywhere close to what Tom Brady has been are extremely small. Usually I stay clear of ridiculous comparisons like this, but there is some merit in taking a closer look at this point.
Tom Brady in 2007 had arguably the best regular season of any quarterback in history. He passed for 4,806 yards (3rd most all-time), had a passer rating of 117.2, and set the record for most passing touchdowns in a single season with 50. This is the Tom Brady everyone remembered when he went down with a torn MCL and ACL in the season opener against the Chiefs. What most people forget is Tom Brady, the Game Manager.
Much of Brady’s reputation was built on his winning in the clutch. He has gotten his team to four Super Bowls, won three of them, and was MVP twice. Brady has won nearly 80% of the regular season games he has started. But if you take out his stats from last season, his numbers are not mind-blowing. They’re well above average for an NFL quarterback, sure, but they do not compare to Peyton Manning’s seasons.
In Brady’s first year as a starter, his numbers were actually quite modest. An average game for Brady during his first year was 19-for-30 and 190 yards. He had 18 touchdowns to 12 interceptions while starting 14 games. The Patriots weren’t blowing people out but they were controlling the ball and getting it done on defense.
Cassel’s numbers - in almost two games - this season are very similar to Brady’s first season. Cassel has completed 70% of his passes, going 29-for-41 with 317 yards. He only has one touchdown but has yet to throw an interception. He has been efficient, spreading the ball around to different receivers, and hasn’t taken too many chances downfield. This is exactly how head coach Bill Belichick worked Brady into the offense when Drew Bledsoe went down in 2001.
ESPN broke down the pass distribution of Brady’s first start to Cassel’s and they were almost identical. Brady threw to his running backs 5 times, wide receivers 7, and tight end once. Cassel threw 6 times to his running backs, 9 times to wideouts, and once to his tight end. Incidentally, Kevin Faulk played in both games.
Cassel’s numbers are actually a little better than Brady’s. Comparing what Cassel has done to Brady’s first season, Cassel has a higher completion percentage and yards per completion. Of course, Brady was throwing to Troy Brown and David Patten whereas Cassel has Wes Welker and Randy Moss.
I’m not saying Matt Cassel is the next Tom Brady but Patriots fans shouldn’t panic. If there is any team that can make this transition work it’s the New England Patriots. Look at what happened when Brady was let loose. He put up video game-like numbers but the end result was a Super Bowl loss. The Patriots are a better team when they are controlling the clock and keeping their defense fresh.