The Matt Cassel experiment is finished. That Romeo Crennel does not recognize that fact is yet another reason the Crennel experiment is also finished.
From the beginning, Scott Pioli bringing in Cassel and calling him a “franchise quarterback” was questionable at best. I see at least five reasons the Cassel experiment should never have even been tried.
While nobody expected the Patriots to pull off back-to-back 16-0 seasons during the regular season, it shocked me even before New England wisely dealt Cassel to Kansas City that he was considered a hot commodity with the likely return of Tom Brady.
From my vantage point, it seemed several teams had lost their mind. When I heard the Broncos had been interested in Cassel prior to the trade, I lamented at the time he did not end up in Denver.
A 10-5 record as a starter would normally be considered an impressive display. I watched several of the games that year and noticed the extreme quality difference at the quarterback position for the Patriots. A close analysis of the New England Patriots 2008 season shows a fairly easy schedule for a division winner from the previous year, yet Cassel lost five more games than the team under Brady.
One key factor Brady had which Cassel lacked, was the ability to lead a comeback against good teams. Going through each game of the 2008 season for the Patriots, there were two wins in which they won after trailing in the fourth quarter: the 4-12 Seattle Seahawks and the 2-14 Saint Louis Rams. They trailed by three early in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks and by eight against the Rams going into the final period of play.
In 2008, the Patriots lost to several subpar teams and barely beat others. With the only key player change being Cassel playing quarterback over Brady, it shows the 2008 season to be a major dropoff in quality for the team with Cassel behind center.
As so many Cassel fanboys like to point out with this year's quarterback debacle and the other primary option being Brady Quinn, quality quarterbacks start at their position. While I really do not agree, as many quarterbacks have emerged from the backup role to become quality starters, how could coaches have missed this diamond in the rough? Answer: they didn't.
Cassel has never excelled enough to be given a shot at starting until an injury gave him his opportunity. Then what he did with it, as pointed out previously, was to perform far below the quality level of the previous starter.
To be called a franchise quarterback with the 15 starts he had in the NFL calls into question Pioli's ability to identify talent and make deals which benefit the Chiefs. Which leads to the next reason...
Whether Cassel deserved a shot to be a starting quarterback or not is one thing, but giving him a franchise-sized contract was pure lunacy. If he could have been acquired for just the elements of the trade, you could make a case for giving him a shot with a fairly weak draft class for quarterbacks in 2009 (the Lions were going to take Matt Stafford at No. 1, leaving no worthy quarterbacks on the board for the Chiefs No. 3 pick). Giving him a large contract tied up valuable funds and was a risk not worth taking.
While the Patriots were afraid Brady would not be cleared to play, they slapped the franchise tag on Cassel. As soon as Brady was cleared to play, the Patriots could not wait to dump the monster contract they would be paying to a backup-caliber QB. The Pats clearly got the better end of the deal. The best player the Chiefs got in that trade was Mike Vrabel.
What results could Pioli have reasonably expected from a quarterback who could not even take the Patriots to the playoffs? The Chiefs had huge holes on defense, and the supporting cast on offense was lackluster. The time of rebuilding called for a serviceable veteran to help the young talent, allowing the young quarterback Tyler Thigpen to develop by bolstering his supporting cast or drafting a true franchise-caliber quarterback. With the lack of talent in that draft, bringing in an average-at-best backup quarterback and crippling the budget with a huge salary made success for the Chiefs very unlikely.
It also nearly guaranteed Cassel's failure. My issue with Cassel continuing to take snaps has nothing to do with the man himself. The chips were stacked against him. Cassel's only hope of growing into a starting-quality quarterback in the NFL was taking over the reins for a team with its chips already in place. That simply was not the case for the Chiefs after the 2008 season, and Cassel should never have been brought in when other issues could not be corrected.
The Chiefs lost the leading receiver in their history shortly after the Cassel trade. Tony Gonzalez called it “a disgrace” if Thigpen was not to be the quarterback of the Chiefs in 2009. Almost immediately after the Cassel trade, Gonzalez demanded his own trade. If you don't think the two are connected, you were not paying attention at the time.
Gonzalez, a seasoned veteran who wanted to win with the Chiefs, believed the problem was not at quarterback. From his words before and after the trade, one can see he believed the Chiefs could win IF they spent their money patching up other holes. When it became clear the Chiefs would allocate funds to a quarterback instead of dealing with more pressing concerns, Gonzalez rightfully demanded a trade to a contender.
We will never know what could have happened and if Gonzalez would have remained a Chief, but the team would have been in a much better position for an average quarterback to succeed at least nominally had the resources used for Cassel been used to fill needs at other positions.
The reasons stated previously only tell part of the story. Regardless of whether Cassel should have been brought in or not, he was. He became the starting quarterback, and history cannot be rewritten. Now, with four seasons of having an average player shoved down the throats of Chief fans, they deserve to see someone else.
To continue to trot out Cassel as quarterback is a slap in the face to Chief fans everywhere. I will go as far as to say even if Quinn or Ricky Stanzi somehow find a way to put up worse numbers than Cassel has this year, they are better options simply because the fans are no longer being forced to suffer through a failed experiment and what should be a trade worthy to cause the firing of Pioli.
The interception in overtime against Pittsburgh should have been the last pass Chief fans ever had to watch from Cassel. With Quinn cleared to practice, Crennel has precedence this season with splitting reps to have two quarterbacks ready. This time, it should have been Quinn and Stanzi preparing with No. 7 inactive. Crennel promised benching for turnovers... well Cassel's last play was a turnover. Enough said.