Was it a Mistake to Trade for Matt Cassel? The answer at this point should be pretty clear: Mark Sanchez rallied his team from behind en route to a 2-0 record, while Matt Cassel threw two interceptions and failed to score on a last minute drive leading the Chiefs to a winless 0-2 record. Seems pretty clear that the Chiefs whiffed by passing on Sanchez, doesn't it?
Hopefully you can sense my sarcasm radar going off the charts. Unfortunately, for many, that logic is not that far off track. Matt Cassel has only started one game and many fans are already getting their pitchforks out of their closets. If you haven't heard the comparisons by now, I promise you that you will within the next few weeks.
For the record, I don't have an opinion. I like them both. I don't know if Sanchez is better than Cassel. I don't know if Cassel is better than Sanchez. I don't know.
I don't know. Frankly, I don't care.
I DO know that you can't make that kind of a judgment after only one week of play. You can't even make that judgment after one month. Players have bad days. Some players adjust to a new offense quicker than others. And no two teams are alike: could Mark Sanchez win football games as a Chief? Could Matt Cassel win games as a Jet? I don't know. I don't pretend to know.
And I'm not going to force some hypothetical situation where I envision whether Sanchez could have led the Chiefs down the field in the fourth quarter against Oakland. I won't, because I don't know how Sanchez would have fared in the first three quarters against Oakland's potent pass defense and I don't know how he would have fared coming back from an MCL injury that limited his mobility and leg strength. I don't know how he would have fared throwing to the Chiefs' receivers behind the Chiefs' offensive line. Maybe he would have fared better, maybe he wouldn't have. The two situations are entirely different. Most of all, I don't know how either Sanchez or Cassel will fare against Oakland the second time around with a little experience under their belts.
I don't even know how Matt Cassel will fare next week. This time last week, everyone was talking about Jay Cutler's embarrassing performance against the Packers and how big of a mistake it was for the Bears to trade for him. Cutler looked pretty good on Sunday and he helped beat a team that happened to win the Super Bowl last year.
There's also another thing I DO know: Matt Cassel is not our guy if he's making the same mistakes he made on Sunday eight games from now. On the bright side, Cassel proved that he won't be a bust in a downgraded offense. He made a lot of really good throws and had a relatively productive day, if you factor in rushing yards and dropped passes. We also saw Cassel's ability to electrify the offense. He has that "it" factor that Brodie Croyle simply does not have. However, Chiefs' fans want more than "good enough" and rightfully so. What has separated the Eli Mannings from the Alex Smiths is that the Eli Mannings progressively got better. I don't excuse Cassel's performance on Sunday nor do I believe that he proved he is the Chiefs' "QB of the Future."
He made critical game-changing mistakes, many of which were made late in the game. Jason Whitlock wrote an interesting article today and, like my reaction to most of his articles, I disagree with the general conclusion but agree with a lot of the points made. Whitlock brings up an interesting point that Cassel needs to prove he's Haley's guy and not just some guy Pioli dragged in from the Patriots. Cassel also needs to prove he can be comfortable as a pocket quarterback and can eventually run an offense that runs primarily under center-he still seems to be a lot more comfortable running plays out of the shotgun. I do think Whitlock is reaching when he suggests that Haley isn't gung-ho about Cassel. Haley was singing Cassel's praises pretty much all offseason. Given that even Dwayne Bowe has been demoted on this team so far, it's safe to say that Haley's lack of enthusiasm for Cassel is likely a way of letting Cassel know that his job isn't as safe as he thinks it is. I don't think it implies in the slightest that anybody but Cassel is being considered as the Chiefs' long-term option.
Looping back to some of my previous posts, my first post spoke about viewing the Chiefs' rebuild with an objective lens. You can't possibly look at Matt Cassel's performance on Sunday and believe that he is the Chiefs' "QB of the Future." On the flip side, you can't look at one week of performance and bellyache about how he never will be.
And you certainly shouldn't make this apples to oranges comparison between Mark Sanchez and Matt Cassel. If you do, table your arguments until at least a half-season from now. Personally, I think Mark Sanchez has more upside of the two, but I don't care. I only care about whether Matt Cassel will eventually be a guy who can lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl. The Giants got a far less productive quarterback in Eli Manning versus Philip Rivers and they gave up a lot of draft picks to get him. Do you think the Giants regret for one second making that trade? I can tell you that many Giants fans regretted that trade big time until Eli won a Super Bowl for them. Ben Roethlisberger has never come even close to Rivers' 4,009 yards of production in 2008. Do you think the Steelers regret for one second choosing Roethlisberger because they couldn't get Rivers?
Cassel shouldn't have to prove that he's better or worse than Mark Sanchez, just as Eli Manning shouldn't have had to prove he's better or worse than Ben Roethlisberger. If Sanchez turns out to be a better quarterback statistically, but Cassel leads the Chiefs to the Super Bowl, then who really cares who the better of the two is? Matt Cassel is the Chiefs' quarterback, not Mark Sanchez. For some of you, that might be hard to deal with, but Cassel deserves a fair shake to prove OVER TIME that he was the right guy for the job. That means he needs leeway to make mistakes and he needs time to prove he's learned from those mistakes. And even if he isn't the better of the two, he deserves a fair shake to prove OVER TIME that he can take this team to the top.
Matt Cassel doesn't have to be the better quarterback of the two. He just needs to be the right quarterback for the Chiefs.