The tributes to and from Tom Brady flew fast and furious this week in both directions. According to some reports out of New England, furious was the operative word in the New England Patriots front office, but nothing that stopped owner Bob Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick from issuing statement bouquets to their former quarterback.
But no one seemed to have more fun with the Brady retirement news than Brady’s former backup quarterback in New England, Matt Cassel. No stranger to using Twitter as a platform for dry wit and tongue-in-cheek mocking of the sports world we live in, Cassell generally spares no one from his bon mots of musings.
And something like the retirement of his good friend after a 22-year, Hall of Fame career was not going to go without some hijinks. But Cassel saved his best bit for Brady’s former team – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that is.
After Brady retired, Cassel offered his services to the Buccaneers
Matt Cassel played 14 seasons in the NFL for seven different teams, earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2010 after leading the Kansas City Chiefs to the AFC West title.
But if Cassel has a No. 1 claim to fame as an NFL quarterback, it has to be his 2008 season with the Patriots.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft from USC, despite having not started a single game for the Trojans at quarterback, Cassell settled in as Brady’s backup for the Patriots, then was suddenly thrust into the starting role in 2008, when Brady tore his ACL in the season-opener.
Cassel responded by leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record, and though the team narrowly missed the playoffs, it launched a career that would last until the 2018 season.
But as Cassel pointed out with a cheeky tweet on Thursday, the 39-year-old never officially retired. Are you listening, Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
The tweet was good for a quick laugh. Cassel hasn’t played since 2018. But the Buccaneers probably aren’t laughing right now.
Could another former Brady teammate be the answer for the Bucs?
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht made an interesting observation this week. In speaking with the media on Tuesday, the day Brady formally retired, he recounted how he and head coach Bruce Arians landed on signing Brady back in 2020.
“We were in this situation a couple of years ago where Bruce and I both said, ‘We’ll have to look behind door No. 2’ [for a quarterback]. We’re at that position again.”
That position, at least at the moment, appears to be leaning in the direction of 2021 second-round NFL Draft pick Kyle Trask from Florida.
With the Gators, Trask threw for 7,386 yards, 69 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and had a 67.9% completion percentage. And, like Cassel, he spent his rookie NFL season learning from the GOAT.
“We’re very excited about the development of Kyle, where he has come from in the last year and what he has done – just being able to sit behind Tom … in that room with [quarterbacks coach] Clyde [Christensen], [offensive consultant] Tom Moore and B.A.,” Licht said. “I couldn’t think of a better experience for a young quarterback to spend his rookie year than with the greatest player of all time.”
But if the Buccaneers decide to go after an established veteran, it’s a different Brady back-up – not Cassel — that could be in play.
Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers agreed this week to seek a trade, and the Buccaneers, in a great irony, could look to replace Brady with his former Patriots teammate. Garoppolo figures to cost significantly less than a trade for a star player like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.
Meanwhile, Cassel is having all sorts of fun with his buddy Brady
Whatever the Buccaneers do, it won’t involve bringing in Cassel, who is having way too much fun as an NFL Insider for NBC Boston and as a social media influencer.
When the reports first surfaced on Jan. 29 that Brady had decided to retire, and were immediately refuted by members of Brady’s family and his agent, Cassel waded into the mess with his own take.
“Can confirm that I texted Tom Brady and he didn’t text me back.”
That led to a spirited back-and-forth between Cassel, former Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn and former San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf, taking turns confirming that some Brady’s had texted, and some hadn’t.
But when Tom Brady made it official on Tuesday, Cassel got serious in his tribute to Tom, except for that thing about the Speedo.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference