Like many other quarterbacks, Matt Cassel began his career backing up Tom Brady on the New England Patriots.
Cassel, a seventh-round pick in 2005, turned that role into a highly-successful tenure in the NFL. In less than a decade, Cassel went from a backup who the New England Patriots hoped never started a game into a Pro Bowl quarterback who later became a journeyman backup.
As of now, Cassel is arguably the most successful quarterback who began his career backing up Brady.
Matt Cassel famously took over for Tom Brady in 2008
The New England Patriots would have set Twitter ablaze if the website existed in the spring of 2005.
In the draft’s seventh round, New England drafted Matt Cassel, who never started a game at Southern California. Cassel threw two touchdowns and two interceptions across 14 games of mop-up duty in his first three years.
Then came September 2008, when Tom Brady went down with a torn ACL in a Week 1 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. With the likes of Randy Moss and Wes Welker on offense, Matt Cassel took over and flourished.
Cassel completed 63.4% of his passes for 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 270 yards and two touchdowns on 3.7 yards per carry.
Although the Patriots won 10 of Cassel’s 15 starts and finished the year 11-5, they narrowly missed the playoffs.
Cassel had a prolonged, and fairly successful, career
Tom Brady returned for the 2009 season, and New England sold high on Matt Cassel at the right time.
After some early struggles, Cassel and the Chiefs broke out in 2010. Cassel completed 58.2% of his passes for 3,116 yards, 27 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 15 starts.
Cassel earned Pro Bowl honors, and the Chiefs won the AFC West Division. However, Kansas City lost in the AFC wild card round and never again made the playoffs under Cassel.
That was the end of the good times for Cassel in Kansas City. Cassel threw 21 interceptions to 16 touchdowns over the next two years and Chiefs fans even booed him after he suffered a concussion in 2012.
Cassel bounced around the league for a few more years, going everywhere from Minnesota to Dallas to Tennessee. He started seven games for the Cowboys in 2015, the final year before Dak Prescott arrived.
Matt Cassel appears to have taken his final NFL snap
Matt Cassel last played in 2018, completing seven of his 17 passes for 59 yards and an interception in two games for the Detroit Lions.
Cassel’s time in Detroit marked a fitting end. Lions head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn each were familiar with Cassel from their New England days.
Of all the quarterbacks who opened their NFL careers backing up Tom Brady, Cassel arguably has had the best career thus far. Cassel made a Pro Bowl, earned over $65 million in the NFL, and guided a team to the playoffs as their starting quarterback.
Brian Hoyer has had a solid career, especially considering that he went undrafted in 2009, but comes nowhere close to what Cassel did in the NFL.
With that said, Jimmy Garoppolo has a chance to pass Cassel if the 49ers quarterback can stay healthy. Garoppolo led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance last year and has completed 67.5% of his passes for 8,042 yards, 51 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions in 48 games and 32 starts.
But for now, Cassel holds the title of the best backup quarterback who began their career behind Tom Brady. What an honor.
All contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.