Jarrett Stidham

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 NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Tom Brady opens up about feeling 'territorial' of Patriots' starting QB job

Tom Brady opens up about feeling 'territorial' of Patriots' starting QB job

There isn't a quarterback in the NFL with a more secure starting job than Tom Brady, but you wouldn't know it by the New England Patriots QB's attitude.

When Jimmy Garoppolo served as Brady's backup from 2014-16, there was plenty of speculation the Pats' second-round pick one day would be Brady's successor. Garoppolo ended up being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, though it didn't take long for New England to find another potential heir to Brady's throne.

The Patriots selected Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of this year's NFL draft, and the Auburn product was impressive throughout camp and preseason. With Brady entering his age 42 season after signing a contract that'll make him a free agent next year, there's significant buzz about Stidham being the next signal-caller in Foxboro.

During his press conference on Wednesday, Brady was asked by NBC Sports Boston's own Tom E. Curran whether he feels "territorial" about his starting QB job at this stage of his career.

"I think that's the nature of this position," Brady said. "I think it's a great privilege. I've always felt when a team trusts you to be the quarterback and they put the ball in your hands, it's a great show of trust that they have in you and I think you need to earn it every day. So I don't think you can rest on things that happened in the past or things that people may project on you. You're tasked with a big burden to help the offense be in the right play, you know, you touch the ball on every play. So you have the opportunity to distribute it as you see fit. With that trust comes a lot of responsibility, and I think that's a big responsibility I take with me."

The Patriots parted ways with veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer on Saturday, which leaves Stidham as the lone backup QB on New England's depth chart.

Brady explained the dynamic of his relationship with the 23-year-old, citing some of his own experiences as a young QB learning the ins and outs of the NFL under grizzled veterans.

"Well, I was a young player once too," Brady said. "And I had a lot of older players that I worked with, so I think I learned from those experiences and I had some great mentors, you know, people that really taught me how to play the position. It was great at a young age to have John Friesz and Drew [Bledsoe]. And then to have Damon Huard. And then to have Vinny [Testeverde]. And to have Doug [Flutie]. Then all the sudden it flipped and it got Matt Cassell, to Brian [Hoyer], to Jimmy [Garoppolo] ... so I played with so many great guys over the years, and I think for a quarterback it's my belief that when you play a team sport, the best guy plays because that's what's best for the team, and then the other guys support that position."

Only time will tell whether Stidham truly is Brady's heir apparent. Until that time comes, he'll have the opportunity to take a step back and learn from arguably the best QB to ever play the game -- an opportunity he's understandably excited about.

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Tom Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast: Let's get to real football. How will Pats deploy offense vs. Steelers?

Tom Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast: Let's get to real football. How will Pats deploy offense vs. Steelers?

At last, football that counts is back. How does the Gronk-less Patriots' offense attack the Steelers in the opener? One-on-one with Jarrett Stidham on his game-day superstitions; Are the Pats too old? Mark Kaboly of The Athletic on the revamped Steelers.

1:14 - 1st Quarter - How will the Patriots deploy their offense against the Steelers with Gronk gone and a new-look receiver corps? Tom Curran and Phil Perry discuss what kind of offensive game plan the Pats will have in Week 1.

12:38 - 2nd Quarter - Tom defends the Patriots' decision to part ways with Brian Hoyer as Brady’s backup, but argues that they could have traded him to get something in return. Does this mean Jarrett Stidham is the QB of the future?

21:48 - Halftime - Tom hits us with some Patriots-Steelers season opener trivia and he catches up with Jarrett Stidham to talk about his game-day superstitions.

23:41 - 3rd Quarter - The Patriots roster has the oldest average age in the NFL. Phil explains why that’s not necessarily a bad thing and how Belichick uses older, more-experienced players to his advantage.

31:15 - 4th Quarter - Tom is joined by senior Steelers reporter at The Athletic in Pittsburgh Mark Kaboly, who talks about how the departure of Antonio Brown has been a breath of fresh air for the organization and how the Steelers defense plans to stop the Patriots. Tom also reveals his trivia answer.

LISTEN & SUBSCRIBE:

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