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Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Pats' Brady indispensable. Cassel? Not so much


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Mr. Irrelevant, the ultimate NFL afterthought, has some company. In fact, he might have moved up one place in the pecking order.

Please welcome, Mr. Catastrophe.

Jeffri Chadiha's list of the NFL's most indispensable players named Patriots quarterback Tom Brady the most critical to his team's success.

That must make backup Matt Cassel the player most likely to doom a season the moment he buttons his chinstrap for real.

If the NFL were a live-before-a-studio-audience sitcom a la Happy Days, where the actor walks through the front door and must wait to deliver his line until the frenzied crowd stops applauding, Cassel would be Potsie strutting in behind The Fonz.

Cassel last year managed to get yanked out of fear he might blow a monstrous fourth-quarter lead against the Miami Dolphins. His afternoon ended after three snaps and two incomplete passes, Jason Taylor returning the last for a touchdown.

That pretty much summed up Cassel's status. Bill Belichick couldn't trust him to avert a meltdown against pitiful Miami.

Cassel's role as the backup will be challenged in training camp, and the competition doesn't include an Earl Morrall, Jeff Hostetler or Steve Young.

The job could go to second-year pro Matt Gutierrez or third-round draft pick Kevin O'Connell -- a selection that provided substantial insight into how the Patriots like their chances if Mr. Indispensable goes down.