MMQB Mail: Why Favre might be kicking himself; more Brady fallout
The Patriots are at the center of the NFL universe again, for lots of reasons. Five questions, one very insightful E-mail from a Central Michigan Chippewa, five answers:
1. Is Brett Favre jealous this morning? Reader Jon Hall, of Alpena, Mich., the interested Chippewa (that's the Central Michigan nickname, and not many people who did not go to a Mid-American Conference school would know that) writes thusly: "Here is an interesting scenario for you Mr. King. Suppose Brett Favre took the commissioner's advice six weeks ago and stayed semi-retired until the season started. This way he could be traded to a contending team if they lost their starting QB. Favre could have been a Patriot as early as today and would be throwing touchdowns to his boy, Randy Moss.''
You, Jon Hall, are the e-mailer of the year. This is a sensitive week, this being Jets-Pats week, with Favre leading Gang Green against the dreaded rivals to the northeast. So you won't find Favre touching this concept with a 10-foot goalpost. But my very, very strong opinion is that had Favre stayed retired, and if Brady got hurt, and if the Patriots came calling (which they most certainly would have), Favre would be in Foxboro today.
He wouldn't be preparing to face the Jets Sunday, though. That job would still fall to Matt Cassel. I think they'd have more likely tried to get through their Week 4 bye, playing the Jets and Dolphins with Cassel, before playing Favre Oct. 5 at San Francisco. But I can tell you from being with Favre in late July that this type of scenario is one he considered. At the end of the day, it just wasn't something he could count on. Peyton Manning's started every game since 1998, and Tom Brady's started every game since September 2001. Those kind of jobs don't open up very often. Obviously, it's a fluke thing that the quarterback job of a great team opened after 15 plays of the regular season.
2. Why did the Patriots send Chris Simms home without a workout? No one in New England's going to touch that one, but I will. At least I'll tell you what I think. The Patriots don't like being told what to do. They don't like news being broken on their players or their plans. More than any other team in the league, other than maybe Oakland, there is a very high sensitivity to the release of information in Foxboro, be it injury or personnel. And so when Al Michaels mentions on the NBC telecast that Chris Simms will be brought in for a workout, when ESPN starts running on a crawl during the Sunday night baseball game that Simms and Tim Rattay will be brought in for workouts Monday, I believe that really chapped the Patriots.
And so whoever leaked the info -- whether it came from an agent or player or someone inside the team (highly doubtful) -- my feeling is the Patriots said, "Fine. We'll show you how our business operates here.'' And so when the quarterbacks showed up, the Patriots said, "Don't call us. We'll call you.'' Again, that's my speculation, not anything from the inner sanctum.
Second feeling here: Scouts and personnel people are less in love with Simms than the public is. The last time Simms played before his spleen injury, in September 2006, he was poor. Three games, 54 percent, 53 percent and 59 percent accuracy, one touchdown and seven interceptions. Jon Gruden had him in camp this year, and he deemed four quarterbacks better for his offense. Does that mean Simms shouldn't get a chance somewhere? No. But it won't be New England.
3. What are the Patriots going to do at quarterback? Probably nothing this week, except go to East Rutherford with two -- Cassel and rookie Kevin O'Connell. I don't believe they'll be interested in talking Daunte Culpepper out of retirement; the view around the league is that Culpepper has been playing with cement shoes since his knee injury -- though I still think it would be smart to bring him in just to see for yourself. Longterm, I think they'll add a third quarterback if Cassel stinks it up in the next couple of weeks, or maybe this week, but I don't see them being pressured into doing anything.
4. Is this the same situation as when the unknown Tom Brady stepped in seven years ago? The temptation is to say yes. The reality is it isn't. Brady had 25 starts at Michigan; Cassel had zero at USC. In 2001, New England actually didn't mind playing Brady, even though it came about in a horrible way, with Bledsoe sustaining internal injuries on the hit by Mo Lewis against the Jets.
The Patriots had grown tired of Bledsoe in 2001, thinking he was too much of a signal-calling maverick rather than going with the flow of what the team had game-planned for all week. Fast-forward to today. Brady is the perfect extension of Belichick on the field, and he's eminently coachable, and he's the perfect leader. My feeling is the Patriots knew they were eventually going to move Bledsoe by early in 2001, and so playing Brady early that year was not so painful. They want Brady to play for the next 10 years, so it's totally different now that Cassel HAS to play.
5. Will Randy Moss go in the tank now that his sensei, Brady, is gone? Very important question. Brady raved to me in August about the player and leader and worker Moss has been with the Patriots. My guess is Moss will see this as a time to mirror what Brady would have been had he been playing, and work as hard as he's been, and pump up Cassel and take on the attitude Belichick pounds into his team -- that you've got to have the next-guy-up philosophy when you play on a Belichick team. My gut feeling is Moss will respond well and be a good leader some week when it looks bleak.
One other factor here: The offensive players voted two captains this summer -- Brady and Moss. They feel the guy's positive presence, obviously.