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Saturday, April 30, 2011
'Mallett 6' script waiting to be written

By Tim Graham

Ryan Mallett
The New England Patriots were willing to take a risk on Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett.
We'll find out what Ryan Mallett is all about.

No setting would have provided a truer test than New England, where the coach runs a tight operation and the quarterback provides the perfect template for a youngster to follow.

Team after team saw Mallett's name on the draft board and ignored it. Seventy-three picks were made, including four by the New England Patriots, before they finally added the quarterback many analysts called the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's class.

"When I got that call," Mallett said, "it was a great feeling just to know that somebody wanted me."

Mallett's humiliation couldn't have cut as deeply as what Tom Brady felt 11 years ago, when the future Hall of Famer squirmed through five-plus rounds of rejection.

Memories of that day recently made Brady cry. The anger and bitterness and appreciation for his parents' support bubbled over during an interview for "The Brady 6," an ESPN documentary about the quarterbacks taken before him.

Perhaps "The Mallett 6" already is playing on a loop inside the rookie's head.

If not, you can imagine Brady whispering constant reminders in Mallett's ear about being driven to prove all the doubters wrong and to show the world he's better than Cam Newton and Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick.

Mallett can do that in New England.

If he wants it badly enough.

"It's an opportunity for me to learn from him and further my knowledge under that coaching staff," Mallett said of Brady late Friday night. "It was something I'm really excited about when I got the call. I can't wait to get started."

When the Patriots make a selection such as this one, it's perceived as brilliant. Bill Belichick earned that presumption with three Super Bowl rings and a steady stream of AFC East championships.

Had the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals or San Francisco 49ers drafted Mallett, we would be ridiculing them right now.

Mallett, in the eyes of most, would be dooooooomed to failure.

After all, Mallett clearly was more toxic than asbestos and ready to contaminate all he came into contact with. The passing skills he demonstrated in Arkansas' pro-style offense were undeniable. And although his mobility resembles that of a drowsy turtle, the damning issues were away from the field. Vague drug accusations hovered, and while still not detailed in public, teams apparently were convinced he wasn't worth the risk.

"Obviously, we're comfortable with him," Belichick said. "We took him."

Now AFC East opponents dread the prospect of Mallett emerging as a well-tutored prodigy with a cannon arm and a Dante Scarnecchia-coached offensive line to keep harassing defenders away.

But Mallett's real advantage in this scenario is Brady.

Mallett won't need to play right away -- not this year or next and probably not the year after that. He can learn from one of the supreme overachievers of NFL history.

That's the type of competitor Mallett will be exposed to in Foxborough. Every day, he'll get to observe, extract, probe and scrutinize the actions of a genuine winner.

"He's definitely a football guy," Belichick said of Mallett. "He is a great kid to talk to. He's very into football. You can't wear him out. If you want to talk about it, he'll be there. However many hours it is, he's ready to go watch the next film. He'll talk about a new technique or a route or a read, whatever.

"His father is a football coach. He's grown up in a football family, which I can definitely relate to that. Either you get sick of it or you marry into it and love it. It's one of the two. I think he's very much of a football person.

"He's a kid that's eager to learn and has a great thirst for knowledge for his position, which there's a lot going on there. He'll certainly get an opportunity to receive a lot of knowledge at that position around here."

On the surface, the payoff for New England seems minimal. Brady should have five more good years in him. He will turn 34 in September but is at the top of his game. He's the reigning MVP and a unanimous All-Pro selection, guiding the Patriots to a 14-2 record last season and posting phenomenal efficiency numbers.

Brady is signed through 2014. Mallett might flame out before then, but even if he doesn't, he could become a free agent before Brady is ready to yield the job.

What then?

If the Patriots' highly favorable atmospheric conditions allow Mallett to grow into a young star, the Patriots will have the ability to convert him into more future assets -- a groom-and-trade exercise similar to what they pulled off with Matt Cassel.

In the meantime, Mallett would provide backup services. Brady has gotten banged up over the past few years. An insurance policy is wise.

There's always a chance disaster will strike. Another season-ending injury could befall Brady. In between serenity and panic, a broken bone could sideline Brady for a couple of games.

Then Mallett would get his chance to show everybody what he's all about.

He might very well fall flat on his facemask. But it's much easier to picture him pulling it off in a Patriots jersey, isn't it?