The Matt Cassel debate at Arrowhead Pride has been going strong for a while now. Since we acquired him the scouting report on Matt Cassel has always been that he is a game manager. He will not win you games and he will not lose you games. He will control the ball with smart play and limit turnovers while giving your ground game the arm it needs to keep the defense somewhat honest. We all knew this in 2009 when Matt Cassel was acquired through trade from the Patriots, and not much has changed. There were high hopes amongst Chiefs fans that Matt Cassel would be the next Tom Brady and the Chiefs way would transform into the Patriots way. Scott Pioli sold it. We all bought it. Why wouldn’t you? Scott Pioli did a fantastic job in New England, why couldn’t he do the same in Kansas City? The purpose of this fanpost is to show Matt Cassel’s ability at QB from the beginning of his NFL career until now while showing the weapons and coordinators they gave him to work with. I will give my opinion at the very end of the post if you care to read that far. Let’s begin in 2008 when Matt Cassel took over for Tom Brady and the Patriots.
2008- In 08 Matt Cassel came in for Tom Brady and started 15 games (played in 16). He played with an amped up offense including Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Tom Brady had torched opposing Defenses the previous year with the same offense. Cassel’s offensive line was one of the worst in the league in pass protection as he was sacked a career high 47 times (3 sacks a game). The second closest was Ben Roethlisberger at 46. There is not a whole lot to say about this year other than this is the year that Matt Cassel “becomes somebody.” He finishes the season with a career high completion percentage 63.4%, and passing yards with 3,693. Cassel is 8th this season in passing yards, 9th in pass attempts and passes completed, 10th in passing TD’s and 10th in passer Rating. Matt Cassel has the same offensive personnel, play calling, and coaches that Tom Brady had. Even with the explosiveness of the Patriot offense Matt Cassel’s numbers are only above average for NFL Quarterbacks this year.
2009- Matt Cassel’s first year as a Kansas City Chief was an awkward one and not exactly what Chiefs fans would have liked to see in the first year with a new regime. Matt had a career low completion percentage at 55% and QB rating at 69.9. He passes for 2,924 yards and throws 16 TD’s and 16 INT’s. He completes the season with a QB rating of 69.9 (25th in the league). This was to be expected by the majority of Chiefs fans with their heads securely fastened to their shoulders. Understanding that the Chiefs were in a rebuilding mode, Chiefs fans gave a lot of leniency to Pioli, Haley, and Cassel. The talk of the offseason was to bring in more talent to put around Cassel in hopes that the ship could be righted. Charlie Weiss was hired on to help correct the Offensive woes. Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki, and Jon Asamoah were drafted that offseason to help Cassel out. Chris Chambers, Thomas Jones, Jerheme Urban, Leonard Pope, and Casey Wiegmann were also new additions to the roster for the upcoming year.
2010- We start the year off with a HUGE win against the San Diego Chargers at home on a Monday night. Neither team looked impressive but the Chiefs came away with the win due to a defensive stance at the end of the game that kept Phillip Rivers out of the end zone. To me, this set the tone to the 2010 season. Matt Cassel went on to pass for 3,116 yards, a career high 27/7 TD to INT ratio, a career high 93.0 QB rating, 58.2% completion percentage, and did this while only playing in 15 games. Chiefs fans were on cloud nine. We had a franchise QB, an elite group of Running backs, a Defense that was up and coming, and believe it or not a gutsy head coach that wasn’t afraid to gnaw on a player to make them the best they can be. Chiefs nation was rolling through a division championship, right into the playoffs and hopefully to an AFC Championship game. But, reality hit hard about the end of the 3rd quarter of the Wildcard playoff game as the Ravens roll to a 4th Quarter lead of 23-7. There was speculation from 610 sports radio in Kansas City that Coach Haley had stripped Coach Weis of his play calling duties. However, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported;
“610 Sports in Kansas City reported Monday that Chiefs coach Todd Haley stripped Weis of play-calling duties at halftime of the loss. However, a Chiefs source insisted that Haley did not take over play-calling duties from Weis and that Weis called every play in the game, including the controversial fourth-and-inches call that was stopped for a loss.”
The Ravens went on to win the game with the score of 30-7. Matt Cassel finished the game 9 of 18 with 70 yards passing, 3 INT’s, and a fumble. The Chiefs held the ball for 18:16 as opposed to the Ravens 41:44. The Chiefs were thoroughly dominated. The lone bright spot was Jamaal Charles who rushed for 82 yards and a score, most of which came on the Chiefs lone scoring play.
Matt Cassel went to the Pro Bowl that year as an alternate for the injured Tom Brady. It came as some shock to Chiefs fans and especially at Arrowhead Pride. But he made it.
Chiefs fans went into the offseason with their heads high and looked forward to the draft to strengthen the team even more. That offseason the Chiefs drafted Jonathan Baldwin, Rodney Hudson, Ricky Stanzi, and Shane Bannon to help out on Offense. They also signed Steve Breaston, Le’Ron McClain, and Ryan Lilja to help out as well. The Chiefs of 2010 had just gotten stronger.
2011- We start out the season happy as hell to be out of the CBA talks and expecting another Division Championship. The consensus of Chiefs fans at this point is still very high and apart from the few that don’t like Haley’s coaching style or aren’t happy with Matt Cassel’s poor playoff performance, there are not a lot of critics. The Chiefs come out in preseason and give the fans absolutely nothing to be excited about. The majority of fans (me included) are telling everyone to relax and give it time as the CBA talks left us slightly unprepared. Our motto was: “don’t worry, it’s the preseason.” We hit the regular season and get murdered in our first 3 games, losing by a combined score of 109-27. In the first two games the Chiefs lose Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles while already having lost Tony Moeaki in the preseason. The season is looking bleak. With Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster and Jon Baldwin (supposed to come back in week 6) the Chiefs would need a lot of help from there OLine to get the Offense going. In week 10 against Denver Matt Cassel goes 13/28 for 93 yards and a TD. He was replaced by Tyler Palko after suffering a season ending injury to his right hand. Cassel finished the season passing for 1,713 yards, QB rating of 76.6, a completion percentage of 59.5, and a 10/9 TD to INT ratio. Coincidently this is the last time that Matt Cassel has played in a meaningful game. The season for the Chiefs ends with a record of 7-9 and we missed the playoffs by one game. Even with all the injuries, the Chiefs were in it until the very end.
For the majority of Cassel’s career he has not had Elite talent around him. He has had good coaches as he spent a year with Charlie Weis in KC, an offseason working with Chan Gailey before Gailey was fired 2 weeks before the first game in 2009, and whatever time he spent with Josh McDaniels and Charlie Weis while sitting behind Tom Brady. You can see how Scott Pioli has continuously brought in talent to help Matt Cassel succeed. Every year Pioli has given him the best players he can find to help Matt move in the right direction. There isn’t much more that we could ask of our general manager in that aspect. From the stat line we know that Matt Cassel’s best year was in 2010 when he had the QB rating of 93.0. He played very well in the 2010, but despite his best efforts Matt was still only 8th in the league in passing TD’s and 8th in the league in passer rating (19th in the league among active players in career passer rating). He did not break the top 10 in completion percentage (26th) or yards (19th). Much of this is to be expected from a team that is built around their running game as the Chiefs were. The duo of Charles and Jones in 2010 took passing attempts, completions, and several other stats out of Matt’s hands. I tell you that so that you understand that Cassel’s rankings in those stats aren’t necessarily as relevant as other stats in determining the real Matt Cassel. For a team that is not built around the pass, stats like yards and attempts are slightly skewed.
If you have made it this far, then what’s a few more paragraphs right? I will get right to it. My opinion on Matt Cassel may come as a shock to most of you as I have argued harshly against him. I feel that most of that negativity that I have given towards Matt Cassel is justified when I hear the accolades that many on AP have been giving him (Im trying to balance out the spectrum). I understand wanting a player to do well, especially our offensive leader. But I feel that the majority of AP needs to reel in the acclamations for a guy who has proven to be nothing better than an average quarterback for his entire career. In his time as a starter his best season backed him into a Pro Bowl due to Brady’s injured foot. Yes, he got there but it was to all of our surprise that he did so. Lets face it AP.. Matt Cassel is exactly who we thought he was (cue Dennis Green). He is a game manager that is not going to wow you very often with incredible throws or 300 yard passing games. He is a guy that will keep us in the game and give his best effort game in and game out. Unfortunately, the last 3 seasons he has made as many bad plays as he has outstanding plays.
I have been looking for the quote from Todd Haley (I think it was Todd that said it.. could have been some drunk from the bar), but the gist was this, and im completely paraphrasing here; “Matt Cassel is the best quarterback in the league from Monday to Saturday, it just doesn’t carry over to Sunday.” I believe this to be the perfect representation of who Matt Cassel is as a QB. The fact is this- We have the best team that we have had since Cassel has arrived in Kansas City. There are no more excuses. Matt has a plethora of Offensive weapons at his disposal and a coordinator that is giving him more control over the offense. Its now or never. Shit or get off the pot. I for one will be behind him this season, but rest assured that the coaches will be looking for a QB in the offseason to either push or replace Matt Cassel based on how this season goes.
My humble prediction is that we go 10-6 with the edge over Denver and take back our Division Champion title. We roll into the playoffs and beat up on a wildcard team and then from there it becomes a crap shoot. If last Friday is any indication as to how this season will play out, then I don’t think 10-6 is too much to hope for. Get ready AP.. I think were gonna have some fun!
As far as you go Matt- This is your last shot. You better make it count!
*All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com