Carroll claims Cassel 'ready for this thing'

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Southern California coach Pete Carroll has been awaiting this game for what seems like an eternity.

No, we're not talking about USC-Ohio State.

"It's the matchup we've all waited for: Favre versus Cassel," Carroll joked with ESPN.com on his weekly conference call. "It's awesome, man."

For the first time in 3,217 days, Matt Cassel will start a game at quarterback. Not only must the New England Patriots backup replace a legend, he'll also have to face one. The Patriots visit the New York Jets in one of the most intriguing Week 2 matchups.

"He'll be ready for this thing," said Carroll, who coached Cassel at USC but never started him because of Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. "It doesn't matter who you play. It just happens to be against one of the great all-time quarterbacks, which is bringing all kinds of hype and buildup.

"He's fortunate to have this chance. He's got the chance to beat Brett Favre, which would be pretty cool."

Carroll doesn't subscribe to the popular theory the Patriots will tear sections out of their playbook to accommodate Cassel, a fourth-year pro who has thrown only 57 passes in mop-up duty.

"I'm sure that they won't have to limit what they're doing too much, but they will some," Carroll said. "It'll call for everybody around Matt to do really well, too.

"Whereas Tom Brady could bail them out and just be the phenomenal player that he was, everybody's going to have to play for them to maintain the level of success that they've had."

Carroll didn't recruit Cassel out of California's Chatsworth High, the last place he started at quarterback. The Patriots fired Carroll after the 1999 season and he didn't begin coaching USC until 2001.

By that time, Cassel already had redshirted a season and could tell snaps would be scarce at quarterback. So Cassel asked to be use as a receiver and on special teams. He actually started one game as an H-back.

"This is the first game he's going to start in a long time because he's had the misfortune of being behind Heisman Trophy winners and then in the NFL behind the best quarterback that maybe ever lived," Carroll said. "He's had to wait forever. This is a kid that never gave in to that, persevered through all of that and continues to believe in himself.

"This'll be a great chance for him. I hope he plays within himself and gives himself a chance to be a part of those players."