Matt Cassel: Not Exactly the Best $63 Million Investment I've Ever Seen.
In Cassel’s first real full-time role, he marveled most of us with a 63.4 completion percentage, having thrown 21 touchdowns and ran in for another two. An arm that wasn’t overly strong, but consistent enough with some mobile abilities to consider Cassel as a Pro Bowler in 2008-09. So good, in fact, that it had the media questioning Brady’s New England career, wondering if it was all the system (thanks to Bill Belichick and other NE offensive coaches) or if it was indeed the skill set of these two quarterbacks that made them so successful.
Once the 2009 offseason hit, Matt Cassel was considered as one of the bigger draws if Tom Brady was to be considered healthy by the beginning of the 2009 season. The Patriots began talks with teams, and the Kansas City Chiefs ended up trading for him, and in return, re-signed him for a 6 year, $63 million deal that included $28 million being guaranteed. Now, to be completely fair - the current situation in Kansas City is far from ideal - a new GM in Scott Pioli, a new head coach in Todd Haley, and this new quarterback in Cassel that fans here hoped to mesh well together instantly. However, I cannot put blame on Haley entirely for his offensive scheme or even Pioli, who watched Cassel closely all 2008 season in New England, for the trade. I do put blame on Matt Cassel though, as his performance has suffered mightily, including a Week 13 benching that had backup Brodie Croyle playing the 4th quarter against the Denver Broncos at home.
Matt Cassel doesn’t provide the numbers nor has he shown that he can put together drives of long yardages at a consistent basis. Cassel has a current completion percentage of just over 50%, which ranks him barely above rookie Matthew Stafford for 29th in the league. Now eclipsing over 2,000 yards on the year, he is still ranked just 24th. Including today’s 0 TD, 4 INT performance against the Buffalo Bills, Cassel is now sitting at an even 13 passing TD’s (19th) and 13 interceptions (5th) which has his quarterback rating just above 70. A quarterback rating that ranks him 25th in the league, and is similar to other bottom-dweller team QB’s such as Marc Bulger (70.7), Brady Quinn (70.6), and rookie Josh Freeman (64.1).
Cassel also ranks 2nd in the league in taking the most sacks with 41. Again, while the Chiefs offensive line certainly does not rank as one of the best in the league, I can tell you that Matt has a problem very similar to the quarterback in Pittsburgh, who holds onto the football much longer than anyone ever should. However, a key difference has been Ben has shown (at least in prior years) that he is able to get out of many situations by making the big play. Cassel has never shown that, at least not in a Chiefs uniform.
Now the only argument one can make for Matt Cassel at this point, are the weapons surrounding him. RB Jamaal Charles (now with 6 TD’s in the last 5 games) has shown to be, for right now at least, the main threat in the Chiefs’ offense. Cassel should be playing off of this performance, with more play-action, screens, etc. However, Cassel is not making these plays, as any sort of rush up the middle during a screen, happy feet and fear of making the bad play is what is making Cassel make his most key mistakes: Turning the ball over. Dwayne Bowe, who is easily going to become a Pro Bowler anytime soon, has been Cassel’s #1 threat for the deep ball as well as double-move routes. Mark Bradley, who took the place of Bowe today while he’s going through his final week of suspension, was in fact out for the deep balls from Cassel today. Three separate occasions I can easily remember, all of which were overthrown by Cassel. I can forgive one overthrow, but when it was two on the same drive, and both missing by 3-4 yards, this $63 million quarterback should be making those throws; there is no longer an excuse when you’re paid the amount Cassel is.
One final key weapon at this point of the season has been Free Agent pickup Chris Chambers from San Diego. In just his 6 games at KC, he’s been able to rack up 500 yards receiving; most of those yards from crossing patterns and quick hitches. Chambers has down a fabulous job being able to show the other Chiefs’ young receivers how to fight for extra yards, and with one or two key blocks after the catch, are breaking free on their own. This is not from the help of Matt Cassel.
It may still be too soon to make the call, but for now I fully believe that the amount of money was a mistake and the personnel move itself was even a bigger one. Even in what was easily a worse year for KC in 2008, fans were still shown that sort of promise and glimpses that I’m hoping for now, in Tyler Thigpen as the quarterback for this team. It was with arguably even worse weapons (minus Gonzalez still there), and while he did turn the ball over like a rookie would, he showed improvement week after week, while Cassel seems to simply regress in every game he’s playing.