Fourth installment in our year-end positional reviews. The quarterbacks. Or shall I say Tom Brady? As he started every game this season, our focus will be on the year that he had. What a year it was. Even with injury upon injury around him, Tom Brady stood tall and carried the 2005 Patriot offense on his shoulders. No more can his critics say, "he plays in a system" and "Charlie Weiss is the reason for his success". Without a doubt, one of the best seasons of any New England Patriot quarterback. He played hurt for half the season (sports hernia), got hit hard and often and always rose to the occasion like a true warrior. Were there bad decisions? Sure. The interception to Champ Bailey in the Denver game as one example and there were more. But, without Tom Brady, this team would not have gotten to Denver in the first place.
Overall Grade: A-
It really is a shame that Brady did not get more votes for league MVP. He was certainly the Patriot MVP, but the national media has come to expect winning and greatness from the Patriots, Belichek and Brady. So, when we have adversity as much as we did with the numerous and critical injuries to key players, the media expects the beat to roll on...just as it has in the past. Then, when Tom Brady has one of his best statistical seasons throwing for 4,110 yards and 26 touchdowns the media shrugs it's collective shoulders and says, "Hey, it's Belichick and the Patriots...we expect it."
For much of the season, the running game was non-existent. Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk were sidelined. Troy Brown and David Givens missed several games. Matt Light and Dan Koppen got hurt. Tom Brady got hit, battered and bruised. This was when it seemed he took all the adversity as a personal challenge. Hey, even when Marty Schottenheimer said, "Injuries were bound to catch up to the Patriots", Tom Brady called him out and soundly disagreed.
This season saw many changes to the Patriots. Especially the coaching changes, with Crennel and Weiss leaving and no official offensive coordinator being named. We were the defending champs and every team was going to be gunning for us. Tom Brady certainly did not do it alone, but was a major contributor to the team's success. He led the team to a division title and a first round playoff win. In addition, without his brain cramp in Denver and the multitude of errors in that game, who knows what else may have been. Tom Brady is in only his fifth year as a starter and is hitting his prime. As long as he is healthy, this team will contend for many years to come.
Because of the durability of Tom Brady, Doug Flutie now 43 years old saw very little action. Nothing too exciting here, other than the successful drop kick against Miami and 10 attempted passes during the regular season. There is talk that he may come back for one more season, but if he doesn't it was sure nice having him end his career in a Patriots uniform.
This pick in the 2005 NFL draft was a bit of a head scratcher. Cassel, from USC did not even play as he spent his time there as Matt Leinert's backup. Well, we have certainly learned not to question the ability of this orgainization to judge talent.
Matt Cassel, con't.
Cassel displayed flashes of brilliance during the preseason. In fact, he had fans smiling and saying, "Wow, Belichick and Pioli are geniuses". Again, with the durability of Tom Brady, Cassel did not see the field until the 16th game against Miami. He started shaky, getting sacked in the endzone for a safety, but performed admirably for the remainder of the game. He led the Patriots down the field for a potential game tying two-point conversion, but his pass sailed high over Ben Watson's head. Matt Cassel played extremely well in that game considering he hadn't started a football game since high school. It's uncertain whether he is ready to take over the #2 spot, or if the Pats will bring in another veteran. But, with a couple of seasons watching and learning, Cassel has shown the intelligence and ability to play in this league.