Some football experts will say it takes years to build a quarterback. Bill Belichick has shown it only takes about two months.
There are few other ways to describe the progress of Matt Cassel, which has been the storyline of the season as the Patriots are somehow still alive and well in the AFC playoff picture. It has been meteoric and complete, the transformation of a quarterback who was, really, at a glorified high school expertise, into a field general throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns in the biggest game of his career.
Two months. That's it. In late August, Cassel was looking at a release. In late September and mid October, he was looking at the bench. Now here we are, in late November, and Cassel is currently the MVP of a team thought to be dead in the water after a blowout loss to San Diego on Oct. 12.
The difficult-to-imagine blossoming has happened because Cassel has made it look easy. He's utilized his above-average speed and agility into an ability to run and keep drives alive, and he's sharpened his effectiveness at finding receivers for 10-yard gains. That's all. If the man 10 yards downfield is free, hit him. If not, run through the hole for eight yards. First down. And while he was at it, he learned how to lead last-minute drives and throw perfect touchdown passes with a second remaining.
Now, Cassel is no longer a quarterback that's starting. He's a starting quarterback. He can start in the NFL, and he can win in the NFL. By mastering the simple throws and simple plays, he's improved at the difficult ones. Now, as the Jets found out, putting the ball in Cassel's hands with the game on the line is a pretty good idea.
Sounds a lot like a certain #12. But then again, why shouldn't it? Cassel spent years sitting behind Brady. Now, he's showing he can play like him.