In September of 2008, 3-Time Super Bowl Champion Quarterback Tom Brady suffered an unexpected knee injury, preventing him from playing for the entire season (thank you Bernard Pollard). That injury suddenly made then-backup Matt Cassel the starter for the New England Patriots. Cassel went on to make 327 completions for 3,693 yards, 21 Touchdowns, and 11 Interceptions. For a backup, his play at the position was remarkable, and he was ultimately rewarded with the starting job for the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the season that followed, however, Cassel's play was for the most part underwhelming. After throwing for just 2,924 yards and only 16 Touchdowns (and just as many Interceptions) in 2009, many Chiefs fans clamored for Cassel's replacement. The argument against him was that before his wonder-season in New England, he hadn't been the starting QB since he was in High School, sitting as a backup in USC behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart for his entire College Campaign.
In Cassel's defense, he didn't really have the same receiving core that he did in New England. As a Patriot, Matt threw footballs to the likes of Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Benjamin Watson. The only Chiefs receiver in 2009 that could truly have been called talented was Dwayne Bowe, but not only did he miss four games that season for an NFL drug violation, he didn't play all that great in the games he was in (589 yards, 4 TDs for the season).
Last season showed great improvement both in Cassel and in Bowe. With the #1 ranked Running Game in the League, most opposing defenses were too focused on stopping Running Backs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones to worry about Cassel's seemingly mediocre play. Cassel took full advantage, making 262 completions for 3,116 Yards, 27 Touchdowns (15 of which were to Bowe), and only 7 Interceptions. He played almost as well as he did in New England, being 577 yards shy of his mark as a Patriot, and easily eclipsing his Touchdown to Interception ratio (1.909-to-1 in 2008, and 3.857-to-1 in 2010 not counting the Postseason).
At first it seemed that Cassel's game had really improved, but all that changed in the final two games of the season against the Raiders and the Ravens. When the Chiefs offense stepped on the field in those games, the opposing defenses spent all their attention stopping Bowe and the Running game. Without a talented receiver to throw to or a potent Running Game to rely on, Cassel once again seemed woefully inept, with the combined results of 29 completions for 185 yards, 0 Touchdowns, 5 Interceptions and 8 sacks between the two games.
So basically my point is this; based on all of the aforementioned information, it is my personal opinion that when Matt Cassel has a talented receiving core to throw to, he plays pretty well. But when those receivers are either taken out of the picture (or never there to begin with), his play declines drastically. Because I believe this, I have been a supporter of Cassel since he arrived in Kansas City despite his mostly lousy 2009 campaign, arguing that we can't expect Cassel to play well when he has no one to throw to.
This year, however, Matt has no excuses not to play just as well (if not better) than he did in New England. In 2011, Cassel will be able to throw to Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Tony Moeaki, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, and now (apparently), Steve Breaston; all of which are legitimate playmakers to some respect. Furthermore, Cassel has a sturdy veteran offensive line in the form of Casey Wiegmann, Brian Waters, Branden Albert, Barry Richardson, Rodney Hudson, and Jon Asamoah. Though not the best offensive line in the league, the Chiefs line has shown they can protect the Quarterback at least efficiently. Also, the Chiefs brought in Jim Zorn to coach Cassel and to further develop him. Everything around Cassel is designed to bring out the best in his abilities.
If Matt Cassel still can't play well with an offense that talented around him, he has no one to blame but himself. General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley have done everything in their power to place Cassel in an environment where he can play well. Now don't get me wrong, I am a Cassel supporter; I think he has the potential to lead us deeper into the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl. But my time of defending his QB play is now at an end. And if he still can't play as good as he did in New England, then I think we can safely conclude that his 2008 Patriots campaign was nothing more than a one-season wonder.
All of this, of course, is merely my personal opinion. What do you guys think?