Why Matt Cassel Has Me Still Sitting on the Fence

Zeke FuhrmanAnalyst IIIMarch 2, 2009

I'm not going to lie. I had fully intended this article to be full of reasons Matt Cassel will not emulate the same success in Kansas City as he did in New England. My original title was, "Why Matt Cassel Will Fail in Kansas City."

I have started writing this article numerous times, but found I contradicted myself too often, and started over again.

This is my fifth draft, and I may start over again.

I am fighting an inner battle. I can't decide which way to go on Cassel. The realistic part of my brain says he'll fail.

Cassel did lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record, but the team finished 16-0 the previous year and brought the majority of that team back. Cassel did pass for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns, but look who his receivers were: Randy Moss (69 rec, 1,008 yds, 11 TD) and Wes Welker (111 rec, 1,165 yds, 3 TD). In Kansas City, he now throws to Tony Gonzalez (96 rec, 1,058 yds, 10 TD) and Dwayne Bowe (86 rec, 1,022 yds, 7 TD).

As I type those stats in for the fifth time, I have this feeling that it isn't that bad. Tony Gonzalez, at age 33, hasn't lost a step. He's a veteran leader on a young squad. Third year player Dwayne Bowe showed his potential on a bad squad last year and has nowhere to go but up.

Another excuse I thought of was defense. The Patriots had the 10th-ranked defense in the NFL last season (19.3 ppg, 309 ypg), ranking 11th in passing yards (201.4 ypg) and 15th in rushing yards (107.6 ypg)

Kansas City, however, was ranked 31st (27.5 ppg, 393 ypg...Cassel and the Pats averaged 25.6 ppg), ranking 28th in passing yards (238.2 ypg) and 30th in rushing yards (158.9 ypg).

Kansas City has also made extensive cuts. They cut veteran players CB Patrick Surtain, LB Donnie Edwards, and QB Damon Huard. Yes, these players were hurt most of the season, but veteran leadership is invaluable to a young team.

Yet, I see the flip side. The Chiefs acquired LB/TE Mike Vrabel with Cassel. Vrabel has played in four Super Bowls and brings experience and leadership to the youngest team in pro football.

Another excuse I make is that Kansas City was 2-14 last season, and they have a first time head coach in Todd Haley.

If I have learned anything, it is that last season doesn't matter. Last season, the Miami Dolphins were 1-15 and the Atlanta Falcons were 4-12. This season they were both 11-5.

I have to give Todd Haley the benefit of the doubt. Even though he's a first-time head coach, he has the experience of one. He molded a young Keyshawn Johnson as the WR coach in New York. He dealt with Terrell Owens during his time in Dallas. He turned the Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin show into the best receiving duo since Cris Carter and Randy Moss.

While the realistic part of my brain is fighting with itself, the impractical part is going wild.

Matt Cassel, 26, has the chance to be the best story in the NFL since Kurt Warner. Cassel, prior to this season, hadn't started a game at QB since high school (he started one game at TE his senior season). He spent his four years at USC sitting behind Heisman winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

Despite only passing 33 times in college (19-33, 192 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT), he was selected by the New England Patriots in the 2005 NFL Draft (Round 7, Pick 16, 230 overall). While in New England, he sat behind two-time Super Bowl and 2007 MVP Tom Brady, who was also a late pick in the draft (Round 6, Pick 33, 199 overall.)

Now it is Cassel's time to shine. With no one to compete against him for the starting job (Tyler Thigpen, Brodie Croyle, and Quinn Gray), it is Cassel's turn to show the world that he is no longer a backup quarterback.

His fate lies in his own hands.