Glen Farley: Patriots need a backup plan desperately
The story has become part of New England Patriots lore.
Upon taking control of the team in the winter of 2000, before it had played so much as a down for him and even with an established gunslinger by the name of Drew Bledsoe on his roster, incoming Patriots head coach Bill Belichick alerted his quarterbacks coach, the late Dick Rehbein, that he was intent on finding a signal caller in waiting.
With that, football history in New England would be forever changed.
With input from Rehbein, Michigan’s Tom Brady was landed with a 2000 draft pick just this side of the “Mendoza Line” (No. 199).
Three Super Bowl championships later, safe to say that bit of football foresight was rather well-placed.
Which leads us to wonder: Why, eight years later, is there absolutely no backup plan in place in New England today?
For that, the Patriots — the organization that is generally a step ahead of the rest — have only themselves to blame.
Since the selection of Brady, the Patriots have exercised 70 draft picks, ranging from Purdue defensive tackle David Nugent, with a later sixth-round selection in 2000, through Nebraska linebacker Bo Ruud, with a sixth-round choice in April of this year.
The breakdown: 15 defensive backs, 10 linebackers, 10 defensive linemen, 10 offensive linemen, seven tight ends, six wide receivers, six running backs, four quarterbacks and two placekickers.
Furthermore, of the four picks that have been utilized on quarterbacks, until this year, when the Patriots surprised a lot of folks by selecting San Diego State’s Kevin O’Connell in the third round, none were chosen higher than the fourth round.
That fourth-round pick?
Louisiana State University’s Rohan Davey, the 117th overall choice in 2002.
Davey’s arm strength was such that he could throw a ball through a wall. Too bad his arm accuracy was such that he couldn’t hit the wall.
Davey completed eight passes in 19 attempts over three seasons in New England before being released and spending a season as the third-string quarterback in Arizona. Davey is now employed indoors by the Arena League’s Cleveland Gladiators.
The Patriots made Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury a sixth-round pick in 2003, but he merely stopped in for the proverbial cup of coffee in New England (he was on the Patriots’ roster that year, but never appeared in a game).
Forty-something-year-olders Doug Flutie and Vinny Testaverde have come and gone, but they certainly never factored in to any type of long-term solution. They were merely passing through.
Which brings us to the crux of the problem.
The problem evolves around a gross error in judgment with Matt Cassel, whom the Patriots may have fancied as a latter-day Brady — a quarterback from a major college program who had more to offer than he’d shown in college. While Brady played behind the likes of Brian Griese and Scott Dreisbach and later ran with Drew Henson at Michigan, Cassel was mired behind Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at the University of Southern California.
In defense of the Patriots, Cassel did show something when he first arrived here. Unfortunately, he has done next to nothing to warrant anything in the way of confidence from the Patriots’ offense since.
With Brady resting an ailing foot, Cassel stubbed his toe again in Sunday night’s 27-10 preseason loss at Tampa Bay.
You know times are tough when a guy named Sabby Piscitelli is scooping up an errant shotgun snap from center, taking it to “the house” on you, and laying the ball up over the crossbar.
Prior to Sunday night, I thought that was a character on “Happy Days.”
Truth be told, that turnover wasn’t Cassel’s fault, but he got away with one on his first pass of the night when he locked in on wide receiver Randy Moss and nearly got picked off by Buccaneers linebacker Barrett Ruud.
What the Patriots have seen this summer is a rude awakening as to what life without Brady might look like.
Cassel has regressed to the point where the Patriots clearly made it a point to have him throw short passes against the Buccaneers in an attempt to build his confidence.
Behind Cassel, second-year free agent Matt Gutierrez (who started one season in college) and the rookie O’Connell are raw at best. Asking either of those two to do much more than to lug a clipboard at this point might be pushing it.
The Patriots’ 0-2 record, the 25 points and four interceptions (to no touchdown passes) in those two games aren’t the issue here. You can throw all those out the window once the Kansas City Chiefs arrive for the teams’ Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Gillette Stadium.
You could have one of Brady’s backups throw those numbers out the window, but, if they did, chances are they would toss them into double coverage and they would fall incomplete – or worse.
That is the issue here.
Staff writer Glen Farley can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.