Man, to be an NFL quarterback. To have the athleticism to throw tight spirals 50 yards down the field to a streaking receiver for a touchdown; to be the field general for a great NFL franchise like the Kansas City Chiefs; to get all the glory when you win big over division rivals Oakland, Denver or San Diego. But on the flip side, when you lose, everyone hates you, the fans boo you, and your name is cursed on talk radio from Topeka to Columbia.
Ah, to be Matt Cassel. To have a beautiful wife, make millions of dollars and drive a sleek sports car. To live in a gated community and be able to afford anything your heart desires. To never worry about money the rest of your life. The tradeoff? You’re an average NFL quarterback who can’t win and struggles to gain the respect of your team and community. Would you be willing to be booed and nationally criticized in return for millions of dollars?
It comes with the territory. It’s not Matt Cassel’s fault he didn’t play at USC but instead sat on the bench behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinert. He decided to try the NFL and was drafted by the New England Patriots, but he should’ve stayed a backup. Instead, Tom Brady gets hurt against the Chiefs, Cassel steps in and leads them to the playoffs. Scott Pioli comes to Kansas City and decides he wants, no, NEEDS, Matt Cassel as his starting quarterback, a guy who, as I just mentioned, wasn’t good enough to start at USC but was the answer to the Chiefs quarterback need after Brody Croyle, a quarterback who actually started in college, proved he couldn’t rally the Chiefs to victory.
I know I’m harping on Cassel’s college career, or lack of it, but think about it. How can a guy with hardly any college football experience save playing on the practice squad be expected to start, let alone, shine for an NFL team?
When Pioli first signed Cassel, I thought, this guy must know something I don’t because this seems to be a very dumb move. Put all your eggs in Cassel’s basket? Oh, but Cassel LOOKS like an NFL quarterback. Sure, when he’s not throwing passes! And sure enough, he’s proven that under pressure, he wilts. He struggles to make consistently good throws. He already has ten interceptions this year, and all you have to do is watch the way he stands in the pocket to realize why he’s throwing so many INT’s. He rarely looks off his receiver. His eyes give away his target, and the defensive backs are moving to where he turns his head. Unless it’s a set throw to the running back on a flare, where he will look down field and then turn to the running back, he’s staring at his target and then forces it into coverage. The exception was his touchdown throw to Dwayne Bowe, which came off a broken play.
The other problem is he’s not leading his receivers. Half the time, he throws it short or behind them. Dexter McCluster hurt himself two weeks ago because Cassel threw it behind him. San Diego notched its third INT of the game when he threw it behind Tony Moaeki and it bounced off his hands. His aim is off.
So what to do? Romeo Crennel says he’s sticking with Cassel. Insiders say when former coach Todd Haley took Cassel out for a game last year, it killed his confidence and he struggled the rest of the year. The fact is, Cassel is just not doing it. Sit him down. Tell him Brady Quinn is getting the next start. Tell him he needs to earn the starting spot back in practice. Don’t give up on him, but motivate him to work harder to play. And if he wilts under the pressure and scrutiny? Then so be it. Let’s see what Quinn can do. The former Notre Dame quarterback has experience and might be able to spark this team to play better.
Another thing while I’m on my soap box. The Chiefs offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, needs to figure out how to adjust his game plan on the fly. One week after Jamaal Charles ran for 233 yards, San Diego stuffed the box with nine defenders to stop the run. So what does Daboll do? He throws a couple passes that get completed, then abandoned the pass game to establish the run game. And the Charger were sitting there ready for it! Charles was stripped twice! There was no room to run! I’m watching this game, thinking, keep throwing it! If they had kept throwing it, otherwise known as taking what the defense gives you, they could’ve driven down the field and loosened up the run defense. Instead, after Cassel threw his first interception, Daboll got cold feet and tried to establish the run. Everyone could see there was no room to run.
Whew, I feel a little better. Thanks for letting me vent. Let me end by saying it will be interesting to see how the Chiefs respond to this loss. The pressure is mounting on Cassel, Crennel and Pioli. Let’s see if they make some needed changes at the quarterback spot to rally this team. I doubt it, but hey, you never know.