The Kansas City Chiefs get their 2012 season underway this Sunday when they host the Atlanta Falcons at Arrowhead Stadium. One player who is under the spotlight is Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who hasn't been consistent since being traded to the franchise in 2009.
The Chiefs were unsure about Cassel going into the 2012 season and considered bringing in Peyton Manning before he signed with the Denver Broncos. But with Manning wanting to pursue an opportunity elsewhere, Cassel will walk into Sept. 9 as the Chiefs' starting quarterback.
This offseason, Cassel received help from general manager Scott Pioli, who went after many offensive players in free agency. Running back Peyton Hillis, tight end Kevin Boss and offensive tackle Eric Winston have come to Kansas City to help the Chiefs offense turn around a poor season in 2011.
The Chiefs will get back running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki from injury. The Chiefs hope Jon Baldwin can emerge as a wide receiver in his second season as Dexter McCluster was Cassel's top target in the preseason.
Cassel will also have back his top wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Cassel has connected with Bowe 22 times in the end zone since the two have become teammates in 2009.
Since 2009, Cassel has played in 39 games, leading the Chiefs to an 18-21 record while throwing 53 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. He has put those numbers up with some limited talent to work with.
This year, Cassel has the talent he needs to help the team compete and win the AFC West, and perhaps help end the franchise's long drought of no playoff wins. Come January 2013, it will be 19 years since the Chiefs won their last playoff game on January 16, 1994.
Cassel may have a tall order before him. This is his last shot as the starting quarterback of the Chiefs. He can succeed with this team. It is up to him, and the team will heavily rely on him in order to find wins this season.
While some people may not be confident in Cassel's ability to lead the Chiefs, head coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll believe in him.
The jury is still out. Cassel will get his last chance to prove himself, and it all begins against the Falcons this Sunday. And with the talent around him, Cassel will prove the doubters wrong and earn a more respectable reputation. If he struggles to do that, Pioli and Crennel must make a difficult decision and search for a new quarterback to take over the franchise.