Patriots

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.

Bruce Arians taking a page from Bill Belichick's book with Tom Brady treatment

Bruce Arians taking a page from Bill Belichick's book with Tom Brady treatment

Here's one common perception about what drew Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bruce Arians is a "player's coach" whose more friendly attitude will be a welcome respite for the quarterback after 20 years of dealing with Bill Belichick.

That might be true to some extent. But Arians wants you to know that the six-time Super Bowl champion won't get any special treatment in Tampa Bay.

"He’s just another guy. He gets cussed out like everybody else, so it’s no different that way," Arians told reporters Wednesday in a video conference.

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That's exactly how Belichick treated Brady in New England, as there are legendary stories of the Patriots head coach ripping TB12 in film sessions in front of the entire team.

Arians' version of "cussing out" Brady might look very different than Belichick's, but at least he's committed to showing that the 43-year-old won't be above criticism.

Arians also has worked with enough elite quarterbacks -- from Peyton Manning in Indianapolis to Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh -- to know Brady will be his own toughest critic.

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"It’s non-stop grind with him," Arians said. "It was the same way with Peyton. I think they all have the same qualities of willing themselves on other people to win and making them accept it quickly. All the good ones, they all had it. When they talked, everybody listened, and Tom has that for sure."

Arians also pointed out that Brady didn't need any prodding to organize Tampa-area throwing sessions with his Bucs teammates as early as May after joining the team in March.

"Obviously he has the rings and all that, but what he did over at Berkeley [Prep], that was strictly on him," Arians said. "Nobody edged him on to do that. He was like, ‘Hey, let’s get going.’ Right now, he’s tired of walkthroughs already. He’s like, ‘We’ve got to practice.’ We’ve got to wait about five more days, but yeah, I love that about him."

Arians clearly appreciates Brady's passion and respects the veteran QB's pedigree. But with that respect comes the right to call out his signal-caller if warranted.

Joe Thuney gives take on his Patriots future after playing 2020 on franchise tag

Joe Thuney gives take on his Patriots future after playing 2020 on franchise tag

Joe Thuney is one of the New England Patriots' best players, and also one of the team's most important.

The Patriots offensive line was hit hard by injuries last season. Starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn missed half the season, starting right tackle Marcus Cannon missed one game, and starting center David Andrews missed the entire 2019 campaign due to blood clots. Thuney was one of the few constants -- playing and starting in all 16 games plus the AFC Wild Card Round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

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The veteran left guard played at a high level, too, earning second team All-Pro honors. He also ranked as one of the top players at his position in 2018, and his performance in Super Bowl LIII, especially late in the game against Los Angeles Rams defensive superstar Aaron Donald, was fantastic.

Thuney was franchise tagged by the Patriots in March, and he'll play this season on the tag after both sides were unable to work out a new contract by July's deadline. The process of free agency was something the 27-year-old veteran hadn't previously experienced as a pro.

"I didn't really know what to expect," Thuney told reporters Wednesday on a video conference call. "Played out my rookie contract, then heading into free agency back in March, it was a new experience for me. I got the call, got the franchise tag and, like I said, the Patriots are such a great organization, I'm happy I can just keep playing football and keep doing what I love to do. My agent helped me a lot with the process. Just took it a day at a time."

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Thuney also was asked if he's optimistic that a long-term deal with the Patriots could be reached, but he didn't delve too far into what the future might hold.

“I’m just focused on this training camp, trying to get better day in, day out and controlling things I can control,” Thuney said. “Right now, that’s just trying to get better a little bit today and going into tomorrow.”

If the Patriots really want to keep Thuney in New England long term, they should have the salary cap flexibility to do so. The Pats are expected to be among the leaders in salary cap space entering the 2021 season. In fact, OvertheCap.com projects New England to have the fourth-most cap space in 2021 at about $76 million, although these numbers could change based on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts revenue.

The Patriots will have plenty of positions to address with their cap space next offseason, and that could include quarterback if the Cam Newton signing ends up being a success. That said, it would behoove the Patriots to seriously pursue keeping Thuney in the fold for the foreseeable future. A quality offensive line goes a long way in determining an NFL team's overall success.