Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Matt Cassell is under the gun as he beings preparation for his fourth season as the team’s starter. After making his NFL bones as Tom Brady’s replacement in 2008 with the New England Patriots when Brady went out with a knee injury—ironically against the Chiefs in the season opener—Cassell got a regular opportunity to start in Kansas City one year later. If you measure starting quarterbacks by won-lost record, then the results are disappointing, as the Chiefs are 18-22.
Now I don’t measure quarterbacks by the record, believing in the apparently outdated concept that this is still a team sport. But my view is not the mainstream one and therefore Cassell is facing a make-or-break year as the Kansas City starter.
Further working against Cassell is that even if you share my belief that the W-L record is not the exclusive responsibility of the quarterback, an argument can still be made against the Kansas City incumbent. Other than 2010, he’s been a mix of injuries and inconsistency. The problem has been in finding a replacement. Kansas City wisely did not try and trade up in the NFL draft and do a reach on Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, leaving it to the Miami Dolphins to make that leap of faith. Anyone else on the free agent wire—including Kyle Orton, whom the Chiefs let walk to the Dallas Cowboys—comes with the same set of issues as Cassell.
But time is not the 30-year-old quarterback’s favor. Even those of us inclined to support him concede that actually winning the Super Bowl with him as starter would require a massive amount of luck or some combination of reincarnating the 1985 Chicago Bears’ defense and the 2002-07 career of former San Diego Chargers’ running back LaDanian Tomlinson. The 2012 Chiefs have a nice defense and a good running game, but it’s not quite at that level. In a sports world where, little gray area is seen between winning the whole thing and being an absolute bust, Cassell is stuck in an uncomfortable place.
I think Kansas City’s going to make the playoffs and earn Cassell a reprieve, but if they don’t, the blame will fall on him, even before it does on head coach Romeo Crennel. It’s not fair, but no one said life—especially in the NFL–was anything of the kind.
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