In Week 1 of the 2012 season, the Kansas City Chiefs' starting quarterback should be...Kyle Orton!
That's certainly not the name many want to hear, but Orton is a better option than Matt Cassel. The two have very similar numbers throughout their careers, but in key areas Orton is better.
After entering the league in 2005 each signal-caller had very different NFL beginnings. Orton was a starter in his first year with the Chicago Bears, while Cassel was the backup to Tom Brady in New England. Since then Orton has not turned many heads with his statistics and has been labeled as a mediocre quarterback. Cassel, meanwhile, was traded for by the Chiefs in 2009 after one solid season with the Patriots.
Due to his tutelage under Brady and Bill Belichick, Cassel was assumed to be a franchise quarterback.
He has not turned out to be that kind of player.
Here are five reasons Kyle Orton is now a better option than Matt Cassel.
In his past 3.5 years in the NFL, Kyle Orton averaged 6.75 yards per pass attempt. Meanwhile, Matt Cassel has averaged 6.6.
Those numbers may not appear vastly different, but it's necessary to account for the teams on which the performances took place. Orton’s starting years were in Chicago and Denver, while Cassel spent a season in New England before coming to Kansas City.
Once you discover that fact, Cassel’s output seems even less impressive. Even with a year in the high-powered Patriots offense, Cassel’s career averages fall short of Orton’s.
In a league that has become incredibly pass-heavy, the Chiefs would be smart to go with the quarterback option that gives them the best opportunity to throw.
That choice is Kyle Orton.
Not only does Orton complete passes for more yards than Cassel, he also averages greater overall yards as well. In 69 career games, Cassel has averaged 169.6 yards passing per game as opposed to 204.7 for Orton in 71 contests.
If Cassel were a superior quarterback, this would not be the case.
In fact, Orton’s superiority is driven home by the fact he has put up those numbers with less talent around him than Cassel. With Denver and Chicago, Orton never had a wide receiver as capable as Randy Moss or Dwayne Bowe. Cassel had the former as a target in New England and the latter in his years with Kansas City.
He has done less than Orton even though he has had more skill available to use.
Cassel was handed the reins to the Chiefs when he was traded to them prior to the 2009 season. Since then he has done nearly nothing to warrant further opportunity.
In 2010 he helped lead the team to the playoffs, but the Chiefs were immediately eliminated by the Baltimore Ravens. Then, with high hopes in 2011, he got hurt and Kansas City limped to a 7-9 finish.
In fact, when Cassel suffered his injury the team initially went with Tyler Palko and then turned things over to Orton for the final three games.
In those contests the Chiefs had two wins and one loss, handing the Green Bay Packers their only loss of the regular season and knocking off the eventual AFC West champion Denver Broncos.
Cassel has had his opportunity to show what he can do, and it has not been impressive.
Given what Orton was able to accomplish in limited action last season, he deserves an opportunity to build off it.
With the game on the line and the Chiefs in need of a score, who is the logical choice to turn too?
Both quarterbacks have similar career completion percentages at around 59 percent, but Orton has a clear advantage when it comes to crunch time. Twice in the past four years Orton has had completion percentages above 85 percent in the fourth quarter.
Cassel has never done that.
In the NFL there are very few teams capable of runaway victories. The Chiefs are not one. With that being the case, Kansas City needs a quarterback whom it can trust as the clock becomes a factor.
Although he may not get very much credit for doing so, Orton seems to play his best when his team is down. Since joining the league in 2005 he has thrown 31 go-ahead and four game-tying touchdowns.
That accounts for nearly half of Orton’s career end zone connections.
Meanwhile, out of Cassel’s 79 total TD’s, only 19 have been go-ahead and seven game-tying.
Although Cassel does know how to bring a team from behind, Orton clearly understands how to do it better. It is again not a major discrepancy, but in a league where even the slightest advantage can be the difference there is no reason the Chiefs shouldn’t try to improve themselves.
Orton gives them a chance to do that, Cassel does not.