Matt Cassel has been named the Minnesota Vikings‘ starting quarterback. The team’s move to dub Cassel, a nine-year veteran, as the starter really isn’t all that surprising, as he’s been the frontrunner ahead of Teddy Bridgewater the entire offseason. But to the rookie’s credit, the competition has been much closer than anticipated.
Bridgewater did his best to make the coaching staff’s decision a hard one. From nearly all accounts he’s impressed since day one, and without Cassel’s experience also in play, he may have ended up as the Vikings’ week one starter.
But regardless, it’s now Cassel’s job to lose. That’s really the way it should be too. There’s still something to be said for making rookies earn their stripes, and for giving veterans one last real chance at success. Unless the young gun is clearly the better option, sitting and learning, even if it’s only for a few games, is still usually the way to go.
On the veteran side of the equation, these upcoming months are not going to be easy. Cassel will now enter one pressure-packed situation up north. He has to deliver right out of the gate to prove he’s the man, and at the same time, to quiet the many Bridgewater supporters. Because everybody knows that once he has a few bad series in a row, that some fans will be screaming at the top of their lungs for the first-round draft pick to take over.
Fair or not, Cassel has very little room for error. While he’s a QB that’s capable of leading the Vikings to the postseason, so is Bridgewater. The easiest way for the veteran to keep his spot is by taking care of the ball, plain and simple. If Cassel doesn’t turn it over, it could be a while before fans get their first glimpse of the rookie out of Louisville.
The Vikings don’t need Cassel or Bridgewater to be spectacular. They just need smart QB play. With Adrian Peterson still in his prime, the team’s offense isn’t going to be over complicated, even though it could be with Norv Turner calling the shots.
Minnesota should be a run-first team that picks its spots to go downfield. But with that said, there must be an increased effort to go downfield in 2014, as a lack of field-stretching has no doubt hurt the Vikes over the past few seasons.
The formula should be simple for Cassel and Turner: a steady diet of AP, get the ball to Cordarrelle Patterson in space, let Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph do their thing. So simple in theory, but yet hard to pull off. However, if the Vikings can avoid Cassel trying to be the hero in close-game situations, they could be alright, maybe even a sleeper team in the NFC.
Many of the pieces are in place for the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. As it stands, Cassel is the most crucial piece to the offensive puzzle. He doesn’t have to be great, but he has to play like a established, cool, calm and collected veteran. If he does, he’ll not only keep Bridgewater on the sidelines, he’ll teach him how not to lose an NFL game.