Matt Cassel

Matt Cassel: Could Philip Rivers fit as Patriots' 'bridge' quarterback?

Matt Cassel: Could Philip Rivers fit as Patriots' 'bridge' quarterback?

The No. 1 characteristic for any quarterback entering the New England Patriots’ system is a high football IQ.

The Patriots put a lot of emphasis on the quarterback to get the offense into the right protection calls. You always see Tom Brady come up and point to a guy on the defense, right? Well, that’s a declaration for the offense for who they’re blocking on a particular play.

There are a lot of complexities to this offense, so you need a guy with a good football IQ who was brought up in a good system and can comprehend that stuff quickly.

You obviously have to be able to make the throws and have the general physical qualities they look for in terms of being a strong pocket passer. But you also have to be able to manage the other stuff.

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That's why Philip Rivers is an intriguing guy, because I still believe he can play at a high level.

He’s obviously an outstanding leader and a veteran. But he's also been in a Los Angeles Chargers system with Ken Whisenhunt, who runs a very similar offensive scheme as New England with similar language. So, there’s some carryover there.

You're going to pay for Rivers. But if you’re looking for a guy to fill a one- to two-year bridge gap, you know what you’re getting with him. You know he’s a competitor. He can still play and is a great leader on the field.

Bringing in Rivers would also give Jarrett Stidham another opportunity to grow behind a veteran guy who's played at a high level for a long time.

That's a big factor in all of this: How much belief do the Patriots have in Stidham?

If you commit to a guy like Rivers, you’re essentially guaranteeing he’s going to be on the field because of his contract situation. You’re saying, "He’s going to be the guy that’s playing."

But if the Patriots really believe in Stidham, then maybe they target a younger guy who isn’t as expensive, such as Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota or Ryan Tannehill: guys who have veteran experience, but you're still comfortable playing Stidham if for some reason they don't work out.

If you do bring in one of those guys, they're going to have to compete for a job. With Jarrett being in the system for a year, he's going to be leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of these guys. So, the Patriots are going to let them compete for the starting job.

The veteran may well win that job, but I can absolutely see a scenario where they bring in a veteran guy and let those two guys compete in the offseason.

Even if they have a lot of confidence in Stidham, though, they’re still going to want a veteran presence in the room who he can bounce ideas off of: a voice who can help him out.

You never know what you're going to get in the draft, so there should be an element of experience with any free agent they bring in.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

Matt Cassel: The delicate balance of navigating 'crazy' Super Bowl week

Matt Cassel: The delicate balance of navigating 'crazy' Super Bowl week

Super Bowl week is crazy.

I went with the New England Patriots in the 2007 postseason. What hits you first is the excitement of realizing you’re finally going to the Super Bowl. It’s the granddaddy of them all. It’s what we play for.

As for the week itself: We were in Arizona, and on the first night you can go out to a party or two with the guys and have a few big meals with the team.

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From that point on, you’re focused on the game -- but there are so many distractions going on. You’ve got media obligations. You’re in a hotel. You’re not in anything resembling your routine during the season.

Everything is a little out of whack. You’re taking buses to different places, and they have small events throughout the week for family to enjoy. So, there’s a ton that you can be overwhelmed with as a player.

You’ve really got to focus your energy and attention on that game and getting ready. It's essential to manage yourself being outside your comfort zone.

But you also have to soak it in.

For some players, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: I only went to one Super Bowl in my 14-year career. If you’re from New England, it’s hard to realize going every year isn't the norm.

I’ve been with a ton of other organizations that have never had the opportunity to even go to the playoffs, let alone play in an AFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl.

When I came to New England, that was the standard already. They were coming off their third Super Bowl when I was a rookie. That's the goal for every team, but it’s actually a realistic goal for them.

When I left, I started to realize how hard it was to win consistently every year and not only go to the playoffs, but reach the Super Bowl. It’s so difficult and so rare for most players that you have to soak it in and put things into perspective.

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Jimmy Garoppolo already has some of that perspective from going twice with the Patriots.

He’ll understand the media attention that goes into the whole week -- media day in particular -- and the distractions that can take place. He’s not going to be too overwhelmed by anything.

But I don't put a ton of stock into that experience, because I don't think Patrick Mahomes will be overwhelmed by anything, either.

Just think of the media attention he's received throughout his career -- especially after winning MVP last season -- and the maturity he's shown on the field.

He also has a veteran coach in Andy Reid who will make the Kansas City Chiefs understand what’s at stake and how they can't let the distractions impact their preparation.

This is the first Super Bowl start for both quarterbacks, so I don't think they're taking anything for granted. They're not saying, "Oh, maybe I’ll slip out and go to this party." (Let's be honest: It's probably a really good party.) They can do that all offseason.

One more thing: If Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers win, it doesn't change anything about his trade from the Patriots.

New England still won a Super Bowl after Garoppolo left. You could say, "They should have kept Garoppolo and maybe moved on from Brady," but they still went and did exactly what they wanted to do.

So, you can't fault them for that, or for the fact that the 49ers put Jimmy in an unbelievable position to be successful.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

Matt Cassel: Picturing how Tom Brady would fit in another NFL offense

Matt Cassel: Picturing how Tom Brady would fit in another NFL offense

If Tom Brady leaves the New England Patriots, I think his new team's head coach, general manager and offensive coordinator would all understand they would have to make concessions.

They want him to feel comfortable. They want him to feel like he has ownership in the offensive scheme.

There would be some give-and-take. They know they'll only have so many more years with Brady, so why not try to maximize that potential? You don't do that by starting from scratch or making him learn a brand new system.

He’s had a lot of success in that system in New England, and there are a lot of positives for him being able to grow that offense the way he wants to see it.

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The closest example for Brady joining another team would be when Peyton Manning went to Denver. 

The Broncos allowed Peyton to put his touch on the offense and run a little bit more of what he was comfortable with. I believe any team bringing Brady in would also make those same concessions and say, “We want you to feel comfortable. We also want you to run an offense that you feel like you can have some success in.”

The offseason would be pivotal.

Brady would have to get in the building as soon as possible and have those conversations to understand what the offensive philosophy of that coordinator is, what kind of weapons they have and how to utilize those weapons.

For example: How do they run their checks on offense? Do they get out of certain plays or looks? Brady has been calling out protection schemes for the last 20 years; you always see him point to a linebacker and call out a certain protection. But some teams have the offensive line do that.

There’s a multitude of schematic factors that would go into Brady getting comfortable with a new team.

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But the biggest factor is terminology.

I had 12 offensive coordinators in 14 years, and everybody is a little different. When you are accustomed to the same word for a route concept for so many years, and then all of a sudden it’s a different word but the same route concept, it takes a second to process that in your brain.

When I had to learn a new offensive system, I would make flash cards, write down plays and watch film like I was cramming for a test. And that was before I even got onto the field.

Brady has never been a part of a different system. There has been nothing brand new that needs to be learned in the offseason; it's just building on what you did the year before.

That's going to be a factor for any team that brings Brady in: How much is their offensive terminology related to New England's? And how much leeway do they have to change what's already in place?

Because if you completely change what you did from the year before, it sets everybody back. The receivers, the offensive line, the running backs -- it’d be a learning curve for everybody.

If Brady leaves New England, I believe his best bet to be successful would be joining a team with similar offensive terminology.

He could be willing to go in there and start all over. He's a smart guy, so he could put it all on himself and say, “We’ll make some subtle adjustments, but I’ll learn your offensive scheme."

But that's asking a lot from a guy who’s been in the same system for 20 years.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.