Greetings from somewhere in Oklahoma on my way to Austin, TX for the first official Arrowhead Pride wedding (Chris, not me). I was traveling yesterday and, wouldn't you know it, the folks in the media tell me the Chiefs quarterback controversy has been resurrected.
No, no a new starter hasn't been named. It'll be Matt Cassel vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. And, just to be clear, I'm going to steal a line from Josh Looney this morning to set myself up: "If you don’t read anything else in this blog today, read this next sentence. There is not a quarterback controversy in Kansas City."
But, it wouldn't be a Kansas City Chiefs football season without a little quarterback controversy, would it? There was the Gannon vs. Grbac decision in the late '90s (Decision? Depending on who you ask, there wasn't much of a decision and Gannon was flat-out the better option.). Then there was the Green vs. Huard situation in '06 that, um, well let's just skip that.
The 2009 version of this controversy is, of course, Matt Cassel vs. Brodie Croyle. We didn't hear much of anything about Croyle legitimately pushing Cassel until Kent Babb's Tweet heard 'round the world when he wondered whether the former Alabama QB was giving the $63 million man a run for his money. That was the first time we really started to pay attention to this. Prior to this, if you were like me, the thought really hadn't entered your mind.
Fast forward about five weeks and the same questions are beginning to crop up. This question from a reporter yesterday wouldn't be asked any other time unless there was a controversy brewin':
Q: Do you feel you are generally on the same page as far as the starting quarterback with Scott Pioli?
What they're trying to get at here is whether Cassel is truly the best option or if he truly has the contract that necessitates him to be the starting quarterback. The problem is that Todd Haley has demonstrated that he will play the best player, regardless of hype and money. The examples he cited yesterday in response to reporters:
Jets: Vinnie Testaverde over Glenn Foley
- Cowboys: Tony Romo over Drew Bledsoe
- Cardinals: Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart
"Those are decisions you’ve got to make as a coach," Haley said. "As a head coach you take the brunt of the criticism or the accolades. You’ve got to ultimately do what you think gives your team the best chance to win. If that means another quarterback being in there other than Matt Cassel then…."
(The KCChiefs.com transcripts leaves off the last part "...then sign me up." )
He trailed off but I can help finish what he was getting at, "If that means another quarterback being in there other than Matt Cassel then...we'll make the switch because I'm fully aware that my future with the Chiefs is based off of wins and not the name on the back of the quarterback's jersey."
Personally, I love the competition being created in Kansas City. It's so simple yet makes so much sense. You're going to pushed to perform at a higher level when there's a guy behind you nipping at your heels. Hell, that's true in my job, why not in the job of a professional athlete? Ultimately, though, I'm not jumping from the Cassel ship. In the long run, he's a better option than Croyle in my estimation (and the stats back that up).
Bill Williamson of ESPN.com said that, while visiting Chiefs camp over the summer, he got the same impression.
"When I visited the Chiefs’ training camp in August, Haley praised Cassel," Williamson recalls. "He said he loves how committed to the game Cassel is and how he think he can become a special player. No matter what the talk is in Kansas City, I do not expect a change. And it does happen anytime soon, it would not be the right move for the Chiefs."
I think we've all seen and heard enough from Haley to know that he's the same guy every day. If he was asked this question in March, days after the trade for Cassel, he would say the same thing. If he was asked this question after OTAs, when Cassel was described by Babb as "the most accurate passer the Chiefs have had in a long time", he would say the same thing.
And now that we've finally got some game footage to go on, I don't expect him to change his answer.