The decision to franchise Matt Cassel has not yet been made, contrary to a weekend report from ESPN.
A source who’ll be directly involved in the call on the Patriots ascendant quarterback said in an email that the report was “speculation,” adding “needless to say, no decision has been made.”
Cassel, who ripped it up in relief of the injured Tom Brady in 2008, will be a free agent Feb. 27 if the Patriots don’t use the franchise tag on him. The earliest they can tag Cassel is Feb. 5 and the latest is Feb. 19.
Even though the final call hasn’t been made, it is – speculatively speaking – more than likely Cassel will be franchised given Brady's slow recovery in coming back from his ACL/MCL repair.
The Patriots simply won’t know before the free agency period begins whether or not Brady will be ready to start the season. Allowing Cassel to hit the free agent market will leave New England with only second-year man Kevin O’Connell on the roster.
Brady, as we reported last week, is well behind schedule in his rehab from his Oct. 6 surgery. In other words, even though ESPN’s source may be engaging in “speculation” at this point, it’s logical speculation. It’s worth noting, though, that given the condition of Brady’s knee since surgery and the subsequent infection that ravaged it, chances of the team franchising Cassel to trade him are (speculatively speaking) very remote.
Currently, the Patriots have about $101 million allocated to 44 players. If they franchise Cassel, that will be close to $115 million for 45.
Clearly, when Cassel gets franchised, a number of other contracts will need to be tinkered with. Lobbing another monkey wrench into the works, Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli is being courted for GM jobs in Cleveland and Kansas City. He’s the lead man in New England on contracts and the cap as well as scouting and personnel. If he goes, his replacement will have a mind-bogglingly tough job ahead of him in the early going.
But the timing just doesn’t work for the Patriots to allow Cassel to leave. Even though Brady went the aggressive route by having his reconstructive surgery relatively early (many doctors recommend waiting for the MCL to heal on its own before going in to repair the ACL), the infection that began near the repaired MCL required six weeks of antibiotics and irrigation. The significant scar tissue that built up during that period still had not been removed as of last week, leaving Brady with limited range of motion. Until the scar tissue comes out (and a two-to-three week period of recovery from that process is observed) and range of motion improves, a productive rehab can’t begin. With the start of training camp seven months away and the season opener nine months out, Brady may wind up beginning the 2009 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Players placed on that list are eligible to begin playing in Week 6.
Help me. What’s the fascination with recycling coaches who have nothing to prove? Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy were touted over the weekend by Peter King on NBC as being prime candidates for head jobs in 2010. King said that the availability of these four make 2010 a great year to be looking for a coach. King even went as far as saying the Redskins and Cowboys would be interested in the pack, effectively firing Jim Zorn and Wade Phillips before the first offseason workout of 2009.
The problem with this is, unless your name is Bill Parcells, it doesn’t work out. Better to go with a rising star from the assistant coaching ranks (which is what Holmgren and Cowher were way back when) or a guy who’s been fired somewhere else that wants to fix his reputation (like Shanahan and Dungy once were).
Of the 12 playoff teams this year, nine are coached by men who are still on their first head coaching go-rounds. The other three teams are coached by guys who got canned hard their first time around – Norv Turner, Dungy and Tom Coughlin. Meanwhile, the best coach of this decade, Bill Belichick, got shamed in Cleveland more than a decade ago.
Go back a little. Don Shula got fired by the Colts after being on the losing end of the biggest upset in Super Bowl history then came back on a mission with the Dolphins.
How’d the legendary Hank Stram do saving the Saints in the mid-70s? Not real good. George Seifert won a Super Bowl with the Niners, asked for and got more control when he went to Carolina and got washed from the league with a 1-15 record in 2001.
Dan Reeves went to four Super Bowls with the Broncos. He was mediocre in New York and – aside from a blind squirrel/nut season when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl in 1998 - bad with the Falcons.
Why is it this way? A few theories. The first is that after years at the helm they’ve gotten further from the trenches and the dirty work. That’s where you find out where the smartest, hardest-working young scouts and coaches are. So instead of beating the bushes, they just figure they’ll get the band back together at a new address and hire a bunch of old buddies. Second, they don’t want to answer to anyone so they get a job with more control than they’re going to be able to successfully wield. And because they have that power, who’s going to tell them when they’re going off half-cocked. And third, it’s a nasty job on the mind, body and family. And these men – with their legacies written – aren’t going to work as hard as they did when they were desperate.
Do you think Bill Cowher – if and when he returns – is going to be sweating the attendance at offseason workouts of some second-year corner who spent the year on injured reserve? No. But the point is, that’s what head coaches building a program have to do.
If you ask me, I’d hire Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who failed in Detroit but is doing a nice job in Philly before I’d hire Mike Shanahan.
There are six head coaching jobs open right now. The Jets, Browns, Raiders, Rams, Broncos and Lions. The Colts job may open up as well. Which team will make the best choice? It may have already been made. In Seattle, Jim Mora – who bungled his way out of Atlanta – is succeeding Holmgren. Give me a man on a mission over a man whose fire may be missing every single time.
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