Matt Cassel: Here's what it's really like being Tom Brady's backup

Matt Cassel: Here's what it's really like being Tom Brady's backup

The first thing that came to mind when I met Tom Brady was intimidation.

I'm showing up in 2005 with a guy who just came off his third Super Bowl win. So, it’s a little intimidating walking in the room with Tom Brady for the first time.

I remember our first meeting: He came into the locker room with big smile on his face and said, “Nice to meet you.” And I said, “Nice to meet you too, Mr. Brady.”

I called him “Mr. Brady” like such a sissy. But it’s out of respect. I was just showing him, "Hey look, I’m in awe of you, and I’m just hoping I can learn from you."

I soon found out that he’s one of the best teammates I'd ever have, and that he was willing to help in whatever manner he could to make me a better player.

And I needed the help.

My rookie year in New England was mind-blowing. I remember going into the huddle in 7-on-7 when we started OTAs, and Josh McDaniels would tell me a play. You’d have to regurgitate basically what he just said, and I remember saying the play in the huddle -- at least I got that part of it -- getting to the line of scrimmage, and saying, “Oh my goodness. I don’t remember anything that I just called in the huddle."

That whole first year, you’re just trying to understand the offense and what they’re trying to achieve. And I really watched Tom and tried to emulate him by understanding what was going on in the meetings and taking meticulous notes on what was being asked.

By the second preseason, the light kind of came on for me, and I really started to grasp what we were trying to accomplish, both conceptually and philosophically. I obviously didn't expect Tom to go down less than 15 minutes into the 2008 season, but he helped prepare me for that season -- and supported me every step of the way.

Before games and after games, the first text message I always received was from Tom. He was my biggest supporter, and I loved him for that.

He was also great because he knew the impact he had being in that building. While he was getting knee surgery in California, he let me grow within that building and develop my own leadership role with the team. And I think that helped me in the long run, because I was able to go out and be myself, and the team responded to that.

I fully believe Tom is just as supportive of Jarrett Stidham as he was with me.

Tom has always taken the time, whether it was with veterans like Doug Flutie or Vinny Testaverde or young guys like myself. He’s a tremendous teammate, and he wants what’s best for the team and the organization.

People don’t realize how much time quarterbacks spend in that room together. We see each other every day for six months, and we spend so much time together that you need to have a room that’s open, where you can ask questions and be helpful to one another.

And for him, if you treat your backup quarterbacks well, they’re going to reciprocate that same feeling toward you and have your back to do whatever they can to get you ready to play.

Stidham will have to have a quick learning curve. It’s not like he has any time to waste, because it’s a violent game and he’s the No. 2 guy, and the Patriots have made that very clear. They obviously have confidence in him.

And based on my experience, Tom and the Patriots' organization will have him ready.

Editor's note: Matt will be joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on gamedays as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and

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As he retires, Dante Scarnecchia lauded for the careers he impacted with Patriots

As he retires, Dante Scarnecchia lauded for the careers he impacted with Patriots

MIAMI -- No matter which player you ask, regardless of position, the respect with which Patriots players speak about Dante Scarnecchia is ubiquitous. 

In the wake of the news that the legendary assistant coach will retire, one player made it clear: There will never be another "Scar."

"It's part of this business," the player said. "Coaches change. Players change every year. It's just something you have to deal with. It is what it is. There'll never be another Dante Scarnecchia. The next coach doesn't need to be Dante Scarnecchia, they need to be themselves."

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The Patriots have a couple of in-house candidates to fill Scarnecchia's offensive line coach shoes in coaching assistant's Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo. Popovich has assisted Scarnecchia in previous seasons, but it was Bricillo who took on those duties in 2019. Bricillo joined the team prior to the start of last season. 

Bricillo spent the previous nine seasons coaching offensive linemen at Youngstown State. Popovich has been with the Patriots for four seasons and served as assistant running backs coach in 2019. 

No matter who is the "next man up," as goes one of the team's mottoes, Scarnecchia has been irreplaceable for the Patriots. 

"I think he's done so much for the game he deserves some credit," the Patriots player said. "Number one, I think he was a great coach. His record, his career, his history, the success of the teams, lines, players under his [guidance] speak for himself. More importantly, I think he cared about each one of his players on a personal level. That made a player want to buy in. 

"Two, I think he was just a great ambassador of the game. I think being able to talk to him and hear him and get to play for him, he loves the game more than anything and is an ambassador."

Scarnecchia has long been a hard-driving coach on the practice field. He's meticulous about the way in which his players carry the blocking pads in drills. After practices, he wanted his players to place their helmets in a perfectly straight line on the turf during cool-down stretching periods. 

There were rules to adhere to, standards to uphold. If they weren't, Scarnecchia wasn't above raising his voice to a decibel level that could be heard by most training camp attendees at open summer practices. 

Players tried to do things Scarnecchia's way. They tried to live The Gospel of Scar. They tried because they valued their jobs. But they also tried because they wanted to make Scarnecchia happy. He showed them that he cared for them, and they tried to pay him back with their effort. 

"I think people forget at the end of the day, we're people," the Patriots player said. "There's a personal aspect to this game. You're not just collecting a paycheck every week. There's a personal aspect to it, there's more to it why we all play. 

"We all believed in him. We believed what he was telling us was for our benefit. He wanted the team to succeed, but he [wanted his players to succeed] when someone's putting that much time and effort into it." 

Scarnecchia's compiled what could be considered a Hall of Fame resume over his five decades of coaching. He won five Super Bowls in New England. He helped Nate Solder and Trent Brown pull in record contracts as free agents. He helped tutor Stephen Neal, turning him from a college wrestler into a Super Bowl champion. 

"You can't take away from what the athletes went out there and did at the end of the day, under his teaching and his leadership," the Patriots player said. "Players were able to develop themselves and make a career for themselves. A lot of that credit does go to [Scarnecchia]. Getting them to buy in and believe not only in him but in themselves, teaching them the right way of doing things."

Texans' moves with Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby likely close door on Patriots' Nick Caserio to Houston

Texans' moves with Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby likely close door on Patriots' Nick Caserio to Houston

It appears the Houston Texans pursuit of Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, which led to New England filing tampering charges against Houston last offseason, is over.

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The Texans have promoted coach Bill O'Brien to general manager and Jack Easterby, the former character coach with the Patriots, has been given the title of executive vice president of football operations.

The Texans operated without an official GM last season after they sought Caserio for the vacant position. The Patriots reportedly used photos and video of Easterby, who had been the Patriots character coach for six seasons, interacting with Caserio at the Super Bowl ring ceremony in June, as evidence of tampering.

The tampering charges were dropped a few days later after Houston withdrew its pursuit of Caserio, New England's director of player personnel since 2008, whose contract is up after the 2020 NFL Draft.