6:07 AM ET
EAGAN, Minn. — Kevin O’Connell’s football world was settling nicely in the summer of 2009. The quarterback immediately ahead of him on the New England Patriots‘ depth chart had been traded away. The Patriots had added two free agent quarterbacks as depth, but O’Connell — a third-round draft pick the previous year — was the favorite to emerge from training camp as Tom Brady‘s top backup.
As it turned out, O’Connell didn’t emerge from camp with the Patriots at all. He was waived in August, one day after a disastrous preseason outing, and within weeks he was moving toward the slow sunset of his on-field career.
O’Connell’s time in New England is a biting example of the story so many NFL players experience. He was a less-than-elite prospect whose window to prove himself was opened before he was ready, and then it was closed forever.
Upon his departure from the Patriots, O’Connell got caught in waiver wire gamesmanship and ultimately landed with the New York Jets, who had just drafted quarterback Mark Sanchez with the No. 5 overall pick. Their interest was piqued in part by O’Connell’s familiarity with AFC East rival Patriots, and not necessarily a projection that he