clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How The Chiefs Should Use Matt Cassel In 2012

Brian Daboll,

First of all, congratulations on your new position as our offensive coordinator. I'm excited to have you here and hope that you're enjoying your time settling in and getting used to your new surroundings.

That said, we need to talk. Good news, bad news time.

The good news? You're coming into an offense loaded with excellent skill position players. You have a very solid WR group highlighted by Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. You should have (barring setbacks) a talented young TE in Tony Moeaki, and a solid No. 2 TE in Kevin Boss. You also have one of the most talented and varied backfields in the league, featuring certified stud Jamaal Charles, sparkplug Dexter McCluster and a guy you know well to be a bulldozer, Peyton Hillis. Finally, the offensive line you'll be working with has excellent bookend tackles in Brandon Albert and Eric Winston, and two promising interior linemen in Jon Asamoah and Rodney Hudson. The line also features wily vet Ryan Lilja, and may see even more talent brought in soon (hint, hint to your boy Pioli). That's the good news.

The bad news? Your quarterback is Matt Cassel. You may remember him, your Dolphins went up against him last year? Yeah, he was the guy who completed roughly 50 percent of his passes and threw 0 TDs.

Now, don't despair. Despite what some, including myself, have said, Cassel is not a worthless QB. He's just very, very average with some glaring weaknesses in his game. I'd like to talk to you about the steps you can take to maximize his (and the entire offense's) effectiveness in the coming year.

I'm not going to waste a lot of time here talking about Cassel's strengths and weaknesses: Chiefs fans know them well, and you without a doubt have access to the same tape we do. So I'll just start, and assume you have a general understanding of who Cassel is as a QB. Now, how to succeed with Matt Cassel as your QB?

First, Run That Rock

This is rather obvious, but I'm going to say it anyways: the Chiefs are going to need to run the ball well to succeed this year. As I mentioned, the Chiefs have a very talented backfield and some talent on the line. Please use it to the maximum effect possible, as we'll need to have teams focused on the run in order for Cassel to succeed. His most impressive year to date, 2010, was not-so-coincidentally the year KC led the league in rushing.

A sidebar on running the ball. Don't use too many draw plays. While this may seem like a rather silly and basic thing, I cannot stress strongly enough how much you need to avoid running too many draws. The KC faithful WILL react with a hatred that will astound you (trust me, this isn't just about you). JC and Hillis are both capable of any type of run you want, and Dex IS capable of running standard stretch plays.

Don't get cute. Just run the rock. That may have nothing to do with Cassel, but you'll thank me for this. Our fanbase currently has strong feelings about draws and they are not positive (again, this really isn't about you. Just take my word for it).

Related to this is the use of 2-TE sets. Please do not hesitate to take advantage of Moeaki's and Boss's blocking ability for running situations. From what I understand you really like using 2-TE sets. Keep that mindset, and use our Speed and Bleed attack to wear opponents down.

Anyways, now that we've done the easy part...

Use The Play Action And Rollouts

Again, this is a fundamental aspect of football. Once the run has been established, or when you begin a game with the other team looking for you to run, play action is an effective weapon. You know this. But you're gonna need to do more than know it. You're gonna need to live by it. Cassel is decent with play action fakes, and trust me, you're going to want to keep defenses guessing.

Related to this is having Cassel roll out to of the pocket to his right after a play action fake. While this can't be done every time, it should be a large part of the game plan. One of Cassel's strengths is that he does have some athletic ability and a willingness to tuck the ball and run. Also, he throws decently when rolling to the right. More plays like this will force the defense to hesitate every time we appear to hand off to the left, and again, keeping the defense guessing will be key when having Cassel throw the ball.

Use Traditional RB Screens And Wheel Routes

A disclaimer: The first time you have Cassel practice a RB screen he may suffer from PTSD effects from flashbacks of one of the worst interceptions in NFL history. (Give me a moment. I need to suppress the vomit... OK, we're good). Push past this, because the Chiefs need screens. Cassel does not have much of a deep ball and we need to maximize what he CAN do, which is more of a dink and dunk variety.

These screens will accomplish two things.

First, they'll get the ball into the hands of the talented RB group. JC and Dex are lethal in the open field, and Hillis, as you know, is an excellent receiver. Using screens maximizes their playmaking abilities.

Second, EFFECTIVE use of screens (That means, "use them at random times, not when it's easy to predict.") slows down the pass rush a QB faces, as rushing defensive players are more prone to hesitate after getting burned by a couple of big screen plays. And believe me, with Cassel you need to slow down the pass rush. He has some of the happiest feet this side of the North Pole (if you don't have kids, Brian, that's a reference to the beloved children's movies "Happy Feet" and "Happy Feet 2") and tends to panic when facing pressure.

Now, the wheel routes. Same basic principle as with the screens. These are throws Cassel can make, and generally he does a good job with them. And again, we're getting the ball into the hands of playmakers who will generally be in mismatches against LBs. Not much else to add there other than the fact that Dex is particularly adept at these passes. Play suggestion: Dex and JC in the backfield. Fake handoff to JC, got to the other side to Dex on a wheel route. You're welcome.

Utilize WR Screens

As I said before, the Chiefs WR's are a good group. Bowe, in particular, is one of the best in the NFL at getting yards after a catch. Breaston is also very talented at getting the extra yardage. Baldwin is unproven in this area, but the man is 13 feet tall: all he has to do is catch the ball and fall forward and we've got ourselves solid gain.

To hammer the point in, THESE ARE THE TYPES OF THROWS CASSEL CAN MAKE, AND MAKE WELL. They will take advantage of Bowe and Breaston's unique skills, keep the chains moving, and force defensive backs into playing closer to the LOS than most are comfortable with. This opens up double moves (which is one thing Cassel's actually pretty good at provided the throw after the fake is in the "intermediate" range), and once again we have the defense guessing and reacting rather than acting.

Are you noticing a theme here? That your skill players are going to have to cover up Cassel's deficiencies? I hope you are... because that IS how it's going to be. However, there are a few things Cassel can do given the right circumstances...

Use Plenty Of "Hurry-Up" Offense

Time after time we Chief fans have seen it: Cassel, having been pretty much awful for much of the game, will go into the no-huddle or hurry-up offense and manage to move the ball, putting the Chiefs in good position. It's happened consistently.

Cassel seems to get into his own head a great deal, which leads to hesitation lack of good decision making. This "overthinking" problem can be at least partially solved by having him play at a faster pace. A plus side to this is that hurry-up offenses often throw even the best defenses off balance and make them more prone to mistakes of their own. Generally, teams don't use it all that often because they want to AVOID mistakes, but in Cassel's case that is not much of an issue.

On a related note, emphasize MAKING PLAYS rather than avoiding mistakes. It seemed Cassel was at his best when given at least a borderline "green light" to try and do something in the air. It's visible the difference between that and when he's trying to avoid mistakes. Now, I'm not saying give him "Aaron Rodgers" type leeway, but it'd be a good idea to emphasize moving the ball and attacking rather than playing it smart and not turning it over.

Again, his best ball was most often played in hurry-up offenses when he seemed to have some confidence. He looked much more serviceable in those situations than in any other, and at times looked like a good QB in those situations.

Utilize Plenty Of Crossing Patterns In The 10-15 Yard Range

These throws are the one throw I've seen Cassel hit with good consistency. He throws the ball to the middle of the field much better than anywhere else. These are the throws I've seen him able to hit receivers in stride and threading the needle. Still no Aaron Rodgers, but he can throw a decent ball with these types of routes. Use that to your advantage.

While we're talking about "distance from the LOS," please know one thing: Cassel is never going to be a big deep ball threat. It's just not going to happen. Yes, I've seen him make a few good throws 40 yards down the field. But they are far and away the minority. If you want to keep defenses honest and from stacking the box, deep bombs aren't the way to go.

One thing you CAN do, though, is extend routes across the middle to 20-25 yards down the field. This is still within his range of making decent throws and should be JUST far enough to keep the secondary backed up. That and the "double move" routes we discussed earlier MIGHT do the trick to keep defenses honest. Just know that if you're going more than 25 yards out you're risking an awful throw. Stick with what he can do and use these "deep intermediate" routes to keep the defense honest. Because seriously (yes, I'm saying it again), the long ball ain't gonna happen.

Good Luck!

I'm sure to an experienced football guy like yourself my thoughts come off as ridiculously simplistic. But trust me, these are the basic ideas you're going to have to build on if you want to have Matt Cassel succeed as your QB. I have faith in you to elaborate on those ideas and have success. After all, you DID just help Matt Moore look like a legitimate NFL quarterback last season (and that is the thought I will hang onto from this day forward as I attempt to be optimistic about Cassel this year)

Your friend,


P.S. When you receive this letter, there may be many, many additional post scripts below that are labelled "comments." I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are others much smarter than I who have some ideas for our Chiefs. You would do well to at least take a look. Take care.

P.P.S. Matt, if you read this, I need you to know... NO, this does not mean I'm even thinking about taking you back. I'm just trying to help Daboll help you. Don't call me until you're completely better, and have been for months and months.

Arrowhead Pride Premier

Sign up now for a 7-day free trial of Arrowhead Pride Premier, with exclusive updates from Pete Sweeney on the ground at Arrowhead, instant reactions after each game, and in-depth Chiefs analysis from film expert Jon Ledyard.