Is Matt Cassel good enough to win a Super Bowl? It seems like everywhere you turn, everywhere you look , this question is being asked time and time again. From KC sports bogs, to AM radio. TV pundents to the sports editorial page. Matt Cassel has become the talk of the town and not necessarily in a good way. Many see him as a detriment, a road block to a Super Bowl championship. Others see him as a victim of circumstance, someone who hasn't been allowed to show his true talent. It seems as though the battle lines have been drawn and trenches dug. Either you are in the Cassel camp , or you are firmly entrenched in the Cassel isn't good enough to win a Super bowl crowd
Supporters of Cassel say that he has been treated unfairly. He has had three OC's in three years. He had injuries to key positions last year. He hasn't had a good offensive line, a good receiving core etc... . You can't really judge him as a player until he has all his pieces in place. It's a team game afterall and you can't expect one man to carry that kind of a load on his shoulders. Heck , Cassel has shown he can play. Just look at his 2010 campaign. He put up more than solid number en route to his 1st pro bowl appearance and KC's first division title in seven years. If he just can duplicate his numbers of that year, KC has a great chance to go all the way. All valid points
Then of course , there is the very ''Anti Cassel'' crowd. For these people it is impossible for Cassel to win a championship. They point out his lack of arm strength, lack of accuracy, sub par pocket awareness as just a few reasons to justify this belief. And they have good reasons for that belief. Truth be told, Cassel has had one good season here. Two out of three might not be bad but one is. Not only that, but he regressed badly last season before breaking his hand and being out performed by journeyman Kyle Orton. The lack of faith in KC's QB was on full display a couple weeks ago . Cassel was literally booed off the plate in a charity softball game. This lead to one of the most entertaining threads on AP in quite some time. But it made me ask myself, is Cassel the right QB for this team? Is he good enough to win a championship? How does he stack up to other recent Super Bowl winning QB's? How does this team stack up to other Super Bowl winning teams. Is there a certifiable link between teams that win championships? In this post I will try to answer those questions. I will also try and be totally fair with Cassel and just stick with the facts as they are presented.
The Championship drought
The Midwest has been hit by one of the worst droughts in modern memory. The heat seems merciless and without end. We are left to wonder if we will ever get rain and a cool breeze again. As we check the forecast and see humid day after humid day on the horizon, it becomes easy to lose hope of a cool down happening again.
Arrowhead drive is suffering from a drought of it's own. Oh sure, it's not as serious as the heatwave we are seeing in the Heartland. It is of the Championship kind, of bragging rights. Bottom line, it has been forty- two years since KC has last hoisted the Lombardi trophy. In fact, it has been forty - two years since KC has even played for a championship. Year after year , we have to see another team hold up a trophy named after our late owner . Giving them the right to play in the most important sporting event of the year, while we watch it from our couches. Since 1970 , eleven different teams have hoisted up the Lamar Hunt trophy at least once. Including every team in this division. Fans are sure to be asking themselves when our Super Bowl drought will end.
Rain on the horizon?
Relief seems to be on the way . In 2009 , Scott Pioli took over as the GM of this team. Pioli brought with him three championship rings and promises of not just one, but multiple titles in the foreseeable future. Pioli has brought change on this team. He has infused this team with good young talent. He spent money during the offseason shoring up lose ends. This team seems deeper and more talented than it has been in ages. A championship is so close we can taste it.
But of course there is one teansey little problem. You guessed it, the uncertainty at QB looms over this team like the very rain clouds that may quench the championship thirst . In a league that is going more and more to the vertical passing game, KC seems to have a question mark where they can't afford to have one. This team will only go as far as Cassel can take it. But is Cassel able to carry and will this team on his back? That has become the million dollar question. A question that must be answered for this team moving forward.
But as I have pointed out , Cassel has had a good year here. He played in the Pro bowl in 2010 and put up some impressive numbers along the way. Fans have ignored the 2009 and 2011 season and have put all their energy and focus on 2010. They are counting on a repeat performance of Cassel and this offense But just how good was his 2010 season?
The good of 2010
TD% to INT% ratio . In 2010 , Cassel was third in the league TD percentage ( 6%). He was also sixth in the league in int % ( 1.6%). All in all he was plus 4.4% in TD to INT ratio. That was second only to Tom Brady. It wasn't the fact that Cassel threw only seven interceptions that was impressive. It was the fact he threw almost four times as many TD's to Int's. Twenty - seven TD's may not be the eye catching numbers they once were. But it is still well above average. Cassel was eighth in the NFL in TD passes in 2010
Quarterback rating ; I was surprised to learn that Cassel was the eighth rated passer that year . He had a respectable 93 QBR. I still have no clue how they formulate this thing . But I do know that 80 is about average and when you start getting into the 90's, you have had a pretty decent year as far as quarterbacking goes . Cassel's 93 QBR was 8th best in the NFL in 2010. It was also better than 3 Super bowl Winning QB's since 2004
mobility and running efficiency; Cassel ran for a 125 yards in 2010. That doesn't seem like much. But his 3.8 YPC was 8th among QB's with at least 30 rushing attempts. Cassel has shown that he has the athleticism to get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet. I would really like Daboll to use this ability on roll outs and bootlegs(especially near the goal line). Cassel had an impressive 270 yards with the Pats in 08. So he could be a running threat opposing defenses have to deal with. This is of course given he slides or runs out of bounds if he sees a big hit coming.
Sack to fumble ratio; When a QB is getting sacked , it is a very dangerous time for a fumble. Most of the time the QB doesn't see the sack coming. So the ball is jarred loose frequently. Cassel was sacked 26 times in 2010. But he only fumbled the ball twice ( he did fumble another time running downfield) . That is only once out of every thirteen times he was sacked. Put that into some perspective. Drew Brees has elite pocket awareness . In fact, it might be the best in the league. Brees was sacked 25 times and fumbled the ball 8 times. That is once out of every 3 times he was dropped behind the line of scrimmage . Cassel not only protected the ball in the air, but in the pocket as well
toughness;Going into the game against the Chargers , Cassel was admitted to the hospital with an appendicitis. This kept him out of the game and KC proceeded to get their head caved in behind a horrid 7-17 40 yard ''performance'' by Brodie Croyle. Cassel was back in action the following week and led the team to a 27-13 win over the Rams. To come back after only one week removed from having your appendix removed is very impressive. One thing you can never question about the guy is his toughness/
Matt Cassel the bad
YPA to completion% ratio; Cassel had a very average Yards per attempt average at 6.9 in 2010. That was ranked 19th in the league that year. He also ranked 26th in the league with a 58.3 comp%. So what does that tell us? Even in a short passing game, Cassel still posted below average numbers in terms of comp%. In other words, he was still inaccurate even though most of his pass attempts were in the short to intermediate range. To put that into context , Joe Flacco had a 7.4 YPA and still completed 62.6 % of his passes. Cassel's accuracy is suspect in my opinion
W-L record when running game was held in check; KC had an almost unstoppable running game in 2010. But what happened when the run game was held in check? If a team gets a 140 yards on the ground, you would have to say it was a good day running the ball. Matt Cassel was 1-5(including the playoffs) when KC was held under a 140 yards on the ground. To put that into perspective, Ben Rothlesburger was 12-5 (including the playoffs) when Pittsburg was held under 140 yards rushing in their Super bowl season in 08. Translation; Cassel couldn't carry the team when they needed him to the most and was ineffective when the running game was neutralized. This is where the game manager monicker has some steam to it.
sack% to pass attempt ratio; One of the long standing defenses of Cassel by fans is that the offensive line has been sub par since Cassel has been here. It is hard to argue with that statement when Barry Richardson is your starting RT. Cassel seems to get a free pass when he takes all these sacks. Well I think Matt has to take at least some of the blame for being thrown to the ground as often as he has been. He was sacked 5.5% of the time he dropped back to pass. But what is even more alarming , is the fact he was 17th in pass attempts. Think about that for a minute. Carson Palmer was sacked 4.2 % of the time he dropped back in 2010. And he had 136 more pass attempts than Matt had. Cassel took far too many sacks for the amount of times he dropped back compared to guys that were the leaders in passing attempts that year.
Again, people say that it is all the fault of KC's line. I wanted to focus on just the 2010 season for this post. However, I think it is important to bring up other seasons for some clarity on this issue. In 2007,Tom Brady was sacked 21 times for a 3.5% sack ratio. The next year with the SAME O-line, Cassel was sacked 47 times with a 8.3% ratio. This is something that has followed Cassel throughout his career and it isn't new to KC. He holds on to the ball too long
What makes a Super bowl QB?
So what is the link between these Super Bowl winning QB's? Is there one at all? Is there anything that ties all these guys together? And if so, what can Matt Cassel learn from them. Well the answer isn't as simple as you or even I thought. First of all, you have to be able to pass the ball effectively. The last three Super Bowls were won by a team in the top 5 in passing. If the NFL has it's way , this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. So Cassel not only has to duplicate his 2010 season, he has to pass it in certain categories. Of course it is a team game and there are other variables involved . Some of the other things we can take away from super Bowl teams
The running game isn't that important
Ok , if your screen name is NigerianNightmare, you may want to skip this part altogether. Because this will bring a tear to your eye faster than garbage brought a tear to the Indian (err Native American) on that anti littering TV commercial in the 70's. The running game isn't that important. Not only that, but it hasn't been that important for a while. The Giants were the 32nd ground attack this year. Green bay was 24th ranked running game in 2010. In fact, there have only been two teams to win the super Bowl that ranked in the top five in rushing since 2004.
Many are crossing their fingers hoping Jamal Charles will be the same player he was in 2010. Many are hoping that KC will repeat the success of their number one running assault of 2010. Be careful what you wish for. The last player to lead the league in rushing and win a Super bowl was Terrel Davis in 1998. That was 14 years ago(man how time flies) . What about a TEAM leading the league in rushing. How long has it been since a TEAM led the league in rushing and won a Super bowl. I'll give you a hint. Back to the future was the number one movie in the country. The first Nintendo game console was released. Guessed it yet? The year was 1985. The team was DA bears. That's right, it has been 27 years since a team led the NFL in rushing and won the Super Bowl. Hey , I want Charles to be as healthy as anyone does. We need him to play well. I'm just not so sure about this Charles leading the league in rushing deal. I think the running game is overreated. Especially this day and age. I am aware that it's not a popular opinion to have on here. But when have I ever cared about being popular?
Getting sacks is important, giving up sacks ..........not so much
Now when I say giving up sacks aren't that important, I ' m not saying you can have a siv for a front line. But this idea that you have to protect the QB to the point he always has to have a clean jersey is false. Here is the list of Super Bowl winning QB's and how many times they were sacked and where Cassel version 2010 ranks on that list.
Ben Rothlesburger 2008 ,46
Aaron Rogers 2010 , 31
Eli Manning 2011, 28
Eli Manning 2007 , 27
Tom Brady 2004, 26
Matt Cassel 2010, 26
Ben Rothlesburger 2005, 23(missed 4 games)
Drew Brees 2009,25
Peyton Manning 2006, 14
Cassel was protected in 2010 as good as almost any Super bowl winning QB since 2004. With a revamped O-line , the sack total should drop even more this year. Maybe not down to fourteen. But it should be fewer than the 26 in 2010 if for no other reason you know who isn't playing RT anymore and we actually have blocking tight ends that can block now
You could make an argument that giving up sacks is slightly overrated in terms of winning the Super Bowl. But you CAN NOT come to the same conclusion when it comes to getting sacks. In fact, only the 2006 Colts (26) had fewer sacks than KC had last year. If you take out the 06 Colts, championship teams average 45 sacks per year since 2004. This is very concerning considering that KC has only two guys that can rush the passer in Hali and Houston. And Houston is still unproven.Unless those guys can get twenty sacks a piece , where are all the sacks going to come from is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a riddle. Because we know that it is NOT coming from the front three. Gabe Miller , Andy Studebaker and Cam Sheffield don't exactly put my mind to ease either. No other issue has me more concerned with this team than the pass rush situation going into this season. It is a major problem (potentially) moving forward.
This one is pretty elementary , but Super Bowl teams are almost always in the plus column in terms of takeaway/giveaways . The lone exception since 2004 was the 2007 New York Giants with a minus nine margin. If you take them out of the equation, Super Bowl teams averaged a plus 8 in turnover column. KC was a minus two last season in case anyone wanted to know. The positive was that they did have twenty int's. That was good enough to be tied for second in the AFC behind the Patriots. The bad news was that they were 29th in the NFL in fumble recoveries , with only six fumbles recovered on fourteen forced fumbles. It was no surprise that Hali was the leader in FF with four. No one else on the team had more than two (although my boy Gilberry had two on his two and a half sacks). If KC can get their sack totals up, then their fumble recoveries and forced fumbles SHOULD also go up.And with more turnovers, comes more scoring opportunities that this offense MUST capitalize on.
So we have looked at a few the things that Super Bowl teams have in common. But what about Super bowl winning QB's? Is there a common link between them? How does Cassel's 2010 rack up with Super bowl winning QB's since 2004. And for the record, the reason I keep going back to just the 04 season, is because of the five yard illegal chuck rule. Before 04, you could keep your hands on a receiver until the ball was in the air. That was changed after the 03 season . Now a DB couldn't put his hands on a receiver past five yards , ball in the air or not. No rule change has had a more profound impact on the game than that one. So it is only fair to go back and look at the teams affected by that rule change(in my opinion)
Accuracy may be the most important skill that the modern day QB can posses . A strong arm and a quick release are useless unless the passer can hit the moving target. Drew Brees has become the gold standard when it comes to passing efficiency. He is not only accurate in medium and short areas. But he might be the most accurate deep passer in the game today. He completed 70.8% of his passes with an 8.5 YPA average. That is amazing. How did Cassel stack up to the last eight QB's to win a championship in that category ?
Drew Brees 2009 (70.6%)
Aaron Rogers 2010 (65.7%)
Peyton Manning 2006 (65%)
Ben Rothlesburger 2005 ( 62.7% missed 4 games)
Eli Manning 2011 ( 61%)
Tom Brady 2004 (60.8%)
Ben Rothlesburger 2005 ( 60%)
Matt Cassel 2010(58.2%)
Eli Manning 2007 (56.1%)
Cassel doesn't fair very well with championship QB's when it comes to accuracy. Only Eli Manning had a worse completion percentage than Cassel had in 2010. What gives me hope is Matt did have a very respectable 63.4% completion rate when he played for the Pats in 2008. What is even more impressive is the fact that he had that percentage while throwing 66 more passes. Matt needs to get back to that if KC wants to compete for a ring this season.
What do all the Super Bowl winning QB's have in common? They all had more passing attempts than Cassel had in 2010. But that is to be expected as KC had a very run oriented offense that year. The only QB Cassel had more attempts than was Ben Rothlesburger in 2005. And Big Ben missed four games that season. This goes back to the accuracy issue. Cassel was last in attempts and almost last in completion percentage. Eli Manning may have completed a fewer percentage of passes in 2007. But he attempted almost eighty more throws. With the amount of attempts Cassel made(a modest 450) he should have completed more. Especially when he had the benefit of working off play action
TD to Int %
Now this is where Matt reined supreme over his competition. Cassel had almost a four to one TD to INT ratio. Six percent of his passes went for touchdowns. He was plus 4.4% in TD passes. His 27 TD passes puts him right up there with Eli Manning (2011) and Tom Brady(2004). Here is how he performed compare to '' those other guys''
Drew Brees 34 TD 11INt (+ 4.5%)
Peyton Manning 31 TD 9 INT (+4%)
Eli Manning (2011) 29 TD 16 INT ( +2.2%)
Aaron Rodgers 28 TD 11 INT ( + 3.6%)
Tom Brady 28 TD 14 INT ( + 2.9%)
Matt Cassel 27 TD &INT (+ 4.4%)
Eli Manning ( 2007) 23 TD 20 INT (+ 0.5%)
Ben Rothlesburger (2005) 17 TD 9 INT (+ 2.9%)
Bem Rothlesburger (2008) 17 TD 15 INT (+0.4 %)
As you can see, Matt was right up there with the big boys in terms of TD passes thrown. If I am going to use his pass attempts against him when talking about completion percentage, then I have to praise him in terms of TD percentage. Cassel had a higher net TD percentage than everyone except Drew Brees (and can you really count 0.1 % as more?). That is impressive when you consider he had fewer throws than anyone except for Big Ben in 05 (again he missed 4 games that year). I'm not so worried about Cassel repeating his INT %. But he needs to throw at least 27 TD passes again this year if KC wants to compete for a title. Chances are, if he threw 27 TD's before , then there isn't any reason why he couldn't throw thirty. Especially with the upgrades at receiver since 2010.
QB rating and passing yards
If you held a gun to my I head, I couldn't tell you the formula for a QB's rating. Now ESPN even has their own formula(cocky bastards) that differs from the official NFL version. This version takes into account winning percentage , YPA, what kind of car he drives. All you need to know is the higher the better. Anything above eighty is a solid year. Between 85 and 90 is a good year. Above 90 and you are talking about a really good year. And if you are in the hundreds, well lets just say Ron Jaworski has to wipe the slobber off his mouth when watching game film of you. In case you were wondering , Cassel had a 93 QBR, not too shabby. Brodie Croyle had a QBR of 49 in his lone start against SD that year. Ya, I miss him to . At least he has a hot wife to go home to at night. Who said you have to be good looking and successful to pull hot tail. He gives us all hope. Anyway , without further ado ........
Drew Brees 109.9/ 4,388 passing yards (sounds like a FM hard rock station)
Aaron Rodgers 101.2/ 3,922 passing yards
Peyton Manning 101/ 4,397 passing yards
Ben Rothlesburger 98.6/ 2,385 passing yards ( I know I sound like a broken record But he missed 4 games in 05)
Matt Cassel 93/ 3,116 passing yards
Eli Manning (2011) 92.9/ 4,933 passing yards
Tom Brady 92.6/ 3,692 passing yards
Ben Rothlesburger ( 2008) 80.1 / 3,301 passing yards
Eli Manning (2007) 73.9/ 3.336 passing yards
Cassel more than held up in the QBR category when compared to the elite QB's in the league. His QBR was definitely good enough to win a championship. However, he had the fewest passing yards of anyone on that list that played at least fifteen games. He did have 3,693 yards in 2008. I would love it if he could repeat that output. This league is becoming more and more of a passing league every year. If KC want the Lombardi trophy, it needs to follow that trend instead of trying to buck the system on the ground
Fourth quarter comebacks and clutch performances
Now we're getting into the most controversial segment of this post. This is what separates the great from the average. The legends from the forgotten. We can talk passing yards , TD's QBR saber metric stats all day long. But it is how well you do in the most important moments that really count. As Skip Bayless would put it ''the clutch gene''. Now I think MR .Bayless sounds a little foolish when he says that, but I understand what he is trying to say. That is, some players(and people for that matter) perform better under pressure. They seem to shine in the biggest moments. Just how well does Cassel do when he has to carry a team and go down for the winning score? I have already pointed out that he was 1-5 when KC was held under 140 yards rushing in 2010. But how many times did he lead his team to victory when they were behind? Here are the fourth quarter comebacks since 2008
Drew Brees 12
Eli Manning 12
Peyton Manning 11 (missed all of 2010)
Ben Rothlesburger 10
Tom Brady 5 (missed all of 2008)
Matt Cassel 5( 3 with KC)
Aaron Rogers 3
This is where Cassel was clearly out classed by his Super Bowl winning peers. The only player that Matt beat out in this category was Aaron Rodgers. And it could be argued that Green Bay's offense was so good, that they rarely fell behind in games. No other statistic gives more credence to ''Cassel haters'' than this. Can Cassel carry a team? When the chips are down and everything is going wrong, can he put this team on his back and get the victory. I have to be honest here. Judging by all the evidence I have seen, I say no. That isn't coming from a place of hate or contempt (although some will misconstrue it that way) . It is coming from what I have seen based on the evidence on and off the field.
I think that I have given a fair and accurate assessment of our QB Matt Cassel. I have tried to point out the positives as I have seen them , as well as the negatives. The good news is that Cassel has some comparable numbers to recent Super Bowl winners. He has shown me the ability to compete with the big dogs in terms of completion percentage, TD passes and passing efficiency. But he seems to lack the ability to carry a team on his back when in crisis. You aren't always going to have a running game to back you up. Sometimes you just have to make a play and will your team to victory. I just don't see that with Matt. Worse yet, I don't think that is something you can learn in the film room or get in the weight room. Either you have it or you don't. And I'm afraid Cassel doesn't have it
Does that mean he sucks? NO. And whether I like it or not he IS the starting QB for this team barring a freak performance in the Pre season by Stanzi or Quinn resurrecting himself from the dead. There are things to like about Cassel. His toughness , mobility , his attitude. If this team is going to win with him at QB, the whole team has to have a unbelievable year, not just Cassel. This team can't afford injuries or coaching gaffs . Everyone has to be on their A game. That isn't a knock on Matt. It is just the reality of the situation.
I have been hard on the guy in the past. I have ripped him quite a bit. I'm sure I will again on a game day thread if he throws three picks in the first half. But, he is the QB of this team. So I am going to give my support to him , regardless of how I feel about his ability to lead this team to a Super bowl. Matt has at least given this team stability at the QB position. We no longer have to look forward to Damon Huard or Tyler Thigpen on Sunday. And that alone has made that 09 trade worth the price