Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Don't let him gather Moss


So imagine you're Matt Cassel. For three years, all you've had to do is hold the clipboard while Tom Brady, football and model extraordinare, went out and did his job better than anyone on the planet, every week of the season. No exceptions, just the same routine from week one to the final snap of the season.

Until now. Now you've had to start your first game since you were picking out a date for the senior prom, and carry a team saddled with the greatest expectations of any team in the league. Furthermore, it's only been two games and one horrible loss since, and people are already counting you out. Again.

But fear not. After all, you have the greatest receiver in the game today on your team, and a sure Hall of Famer, in Randy Moss. Surely he's your safety blanket, right? The man you go to when the chips are down, isn't he?

Apparently not. Since taking over as the interim driver of the Ferrari that is the New England Patriots franchise, Cassel has alienated its engine. Moss has six catches in two games for a grand total of 47 yards. For the record, Moss had five separate games last season where he had single catches over 47 yards, and three others with catches over 40 yards.

Many would chalk this up to Cassel's inexperience, and it can't be forgotten that he's still adjusting to being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Though if anything, it should mean that Cassel is going to Moss too much. Cassel's trying to learn how to play in the NFL, snap by snap, and he has the luxury of one of the greatest deep threats to play the game at his side, a receiver that can boost his stats by turning bad throws into long gains, ill-advised throws into triple coverage into touchdowns and seemingly score if you throw it long enough.

The NFL has seen plenty of quarterbacks step into Cassel's position and succeed, often by using their star receivers as go-to guys. Tony Romo stepped in for the Dallas Cowboys with no experience in 2006, developed a rapport with Terrell Owens and led Dallas to a playoff spot. Philip Rivers took over at the helm for the San Diego Chargers in 2006, went to All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates 71 times for nine touchdowns, and led the team to a franchise-best 14-2 record and the verge of the AFC Championship Game.

Even the man Cassel is replacing began his career by finding the star receiver early and often. When Tom Brady took over the team in September of 2001, with no career starts to his record, the best Patriot receiver was Troy Brown, who was coming off an 83-catch performance the season before. With Brady at the helm, Brown had career highs with 101 catches and 1,199 yards receiving. Both made the Pro Bowl, and eventually, this happened.

Randy Moss is better than all of those receivers, but he's not a short-gamer. He hasn't made a name for himself blocking, or catching short screens, or taking a hit over the middle for an eight-yard catch. He's a vertical threat, one of the greatest deep options in NFL history, and few are more in need of a go-to scoring threat than Matt Cassel. Getting Moss into the game consistently would please him, put points on the board, and give Cassel the confidence that he can throw the ball downfield with success. Moss has done nothing but show support for Cassel, though there are rumors that three catches on short sideline routes aren't what he's looking for. Throwing the deep ball to Moss would keep him happy and take the pressure off Cassel, and the team will be better for it.

4 comments:

lbonifant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
birdman said...

To be successful, Cassel needs to "see" Moss before he is open. Cassel's release is a beat slower than Brady's resulting in Moss being covered by the time the ball arrives. "Seeing" the receiver before he is open and getting the ball there requires game experience, experience that Cassel has not had in the NFL or college. I am afraid it will be a long season for Moss and Pats fans.

Drew B. said...

Good point. But we have seen Cassel try the long pass to Moss at points this season (the long play and touchdown pass against Kansas City, the long throw against the Jets that was a shade from being complete) with degrees of success. True, Brady finds Moss and gets the ball to him faster than Cassel. But the Patriots signed Moss because they knew how important he was to the offense, and I don't think Belichick would have kept Cassel if he didn't think he could hit #81. We'll see how it goes, though.

ShallowBlue said...

Watching Cassel against the Fins he knew where to throw the ball and looked to be making right reads. He just couldn't deliver it. When it comes to knowing the offense and reading the defense he's as good as Brady. His problem is delivering the ball.
Over the next few games we'll determine if it's rust or lack of talent.