Heading into the Patriots Week 13 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, Bill Belichick is looking for an answer at QB anywhere he can find it, including working out a Boston-area born-and-raised signal-caller, former Newton South High School star Austin Burton. Ahead of the Patriots’ Week 12 Chargers game, the team worked out several players, including Burton, who is best known around Massachusetts for his time quarterbacking the Lions in the Boston suburbs.
Burton was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and first went to UCLA, where he failed to unseat current Cleveland Browns quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. After that, the QB transferred to Purdue, where he backed up current Las Vegas Raiders signal-caller Aidan O’Connell. All told, Burton threw 127 career passes in college, completing 87 of them for 682 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
He does have several Patriots connections, though. His father, Steve Burton, covers the team for WBZ-TV, and his grandfather, Ron Burton, was the first-ever draft pick of the Boston Patriots in the 1960 AFL Draft, per CBS News Boston.
Can the Patriots unearth a quarterback gem again?
Does this tryout simply show how desperate Bill Belichick is to replace the failing Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe? Probably. However, the Patriots have found a diamond in the rough before with a quarterback who spent his college career as a backup.
Matt Cassel had even less experience than Austin Burton coming out of college. The USC Trojans backup threw just 33 passes his entire college career backing up then-future NFL star Carson Palmer and had 192 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception on his resume. In 2008, though, he replaced an injured Tom Brady and led Belichick’s Patriots to a 10-5 record, throwing for over 3,600 yards.
Cassel went on to throw for over 17,000 yards in his 14-year NFL career. Maybe the Patriots can find that magic twice with Burton.