FanPost

Could Matt Cassel be Destined for Greatness?

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via cdn0.sbnation.com

After Matt Cassel's season-ending injury, most fans spent a good deal of time and energy lamenting on our lack of starting QB talent. Some Chiefs fans even booed Cassel during All-Star festivities. And, although our backup QB situation was addressed during free agency, many fans turned on Scott Pioli for failing to address the starting role. After the off-season acquisitions, Cassel became the widely accepted "weak link" of the team.

Until very recently, I thought Pioli had gambled on Matt Cassel. I no longer believe that. TEXAN_CHIEF was right about what's held our QB back but there's more to it. I think Matt Cassel isn't only a capable franchise QB but a QB destined for greatness. This isn't Friday night's game talking either (although it helped with the courage to post this!). Despite Haley's interference, I believe one important and highly uncommon stat already shows that Matt Cassel can and should be a future elite in this league. Let's take a look, shall we?

Something that seems to have flown under the radar is the significance of Matt Cassel's 90.2 passer rating in 2008. Two years later, of course, he put up a 93.0 and made the Pro Bowl (barely). Given his modest path to the NFL, he easily qualifies as an overachiever. But how uncommon is it to hit that 90 mark in a QB's freshman year?

To help answer that question, I took a look at every QB who's achieved a top 10 passer rating over the past decade and I placed them into 5 categories. Elite, Franchise (5 "full" seasons or preparing to start their 5th with one team), Overachievers (UDFAs and later round picks who had notable seasons), Underachievers (first rounders who got a taste of success but fell short of expectations), and Too Early to tell. Here they are:

Elite

Franchise

Overachievers

Underachievers

Too Early

Aaron Rodgers

Matt Schaub

Jeff Garcia

Chad Pennington

Matt Stafford

Tony Romo

Matt Ryan

Rich Gannon

Byron Leftwich

Matt Cassel

Tom Brady

Dante Culpepper

Brian Griese

Michael Vick

Phillip Rivers

Carson Palmer

Damon Huard

Josh Freeman

Peyton Manning

Trent Green

Jon Kitna

Alex Smith

Drew Brees

Joe Flacco

Kurt Warner

David Garrard

Ben Roethlisberger

Donovan McNabb

Brett Favre

Marc Bulger

Eli Manning

Mark Brunell

Steve McNair

Matt Hasselbeck

Drew Bledsoe

Jake Plummer

Next, I compared Cassel's 90.2 freshman season to everyone else's. I looked at the first season these QBs started at least 9 games. Of the 10 Elite QBs listed, 5 hit the 90 mark their freshman season. Rodgers (93.8), Romo (95.1), Rivers (92), Warner (109.2), Roethlisberger (98.1). Likewise (and this is important for all you negative Nancys), 5 of them had an average rating below 90 their first 4 years in the league. Does Eli's irregular career help skew things in my favor. Absolutely. But 2 Super Bowl MVPs is elite in anybody's book.

It turns out categorizing the rest of them was pointless. Out of the remaining 26 QBs to hit top 10 passer rating list over the past 10 seasons, including the too-early-to-tells, only 3 have had a freshman season - 9 games or more by my analysis - at or above 90 passer rating. Daunte Culpepper (98) and Chad Pennington (104.2) were the other two. Both of those guys had exceptional careers and both earned their way into the record books. Unfortunately for both of them, injuries define their careers as much as their accomplishments. Sadly, I think both had Hall of Fame potential.

So, aside from Cassel so far, nobody in recent history has started their career above 90 that didn't end up with their names next to the greats of the sport in one way or another. Cassel is still young. More than a few Chiefs fans have made up their minds about Matt Cassel's mediocrity. I hope this reaches at least one of you.

Oh yeah, one last thing. Of those ten elite QBs above, 8 of them have rings. The other 2 are far from done playing. And the rest combined? 0. Who knows all of this already? Pioli. He went and got himself about as close to a sure thing as you can find in this league if you buy into my Freshman 90 hypothesis. Even Haley couldn't screw up Warner/Fitzgerald. But, as Head Coach/OC/Cerberus-three-headed-monster, he did make a mess of things here. But Pioli had positioned himself to recover quickly when he brought in RAC. And with Daboll, they've already shown us we're in for something different than we've seen in a long time.

So relax. Get behind your QB. Things are about to start going his way.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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