Cassel’s Arrow Is Up … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

The steps have been small and very different from week to week. But one trait those steps share is they’ve all gone in the same direction – forward.

That would be Matt Cassel and his performances as the Chiefs starting quarterback. Ever so quietly for those around the country, Cassel has elevated himself into the top half of the quarterback rankings with his play over the past four games.

There are some Chiefs fans/Cassel haters who have seen the last four games and refuse to admit they’ve seen the progress. But it’s there and visible in the numbers both big and small.

No, he’s not challenging the big boys like Manning, Brady and Brees, but he’s also not dancing with the guys at the bottom of the passing list for the 2010 season, like Jason Campbell, Derek Anderson and some guy named Favre.

Cassel’s passer rating has risen this week to 91.5, good enough for the No. 9 spot among league quarterbacks. This week, that number is better than guys like Brees, Ryan, Rodgers, Sanchez, Palmer, Falcon, Cutler and McNabb.

“Matt has continued to make strides and improve in some subtle areas that make such a big difference for a quarterback,” head coach Todd Haley said this week.

Haley and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis have kept their foot on the accelerator with their quarterback and his mechanics. Along with improved decision making, releasing the ball quicker and throwing with more accuracy, what has pushed Cassel’s performance and production upward has been better mechanics.

“I saw some great evidence of Matt getting back fast, being able to slide up, feel the pressure and get the ball out on time,” Haley said.

It was back in September that Haley sat down and did some serious tape study of quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. One of the things he saw and brought to Cassel’s attention was how quickly those quarterbacks got back in the pocket. While some think the passer’s most important appendage is his throwing arm, it’s really his legs and the feet attached to them.

What’s helped Cassel is improved foot work. He’s getting away from center quicker, setting up faster and then lining up his feet and legs to help his throws. That allows him more control on the ball and where it’s going and even when it arrives.

“He is working hard every day and we are staying on him as a group,” Haley said. “But he understands the things he needs to do to continue to improve. He is working hard to do those things.”

All that can be seen in his numbers over the last four games. Here are the 10 most important statistics for an NFL starting quarterback, listed by order of their importance. We’ll have more on the statistics after you’ve had a chance to peruse the grid.


Last 4









Giveaways (INTs/fumbles)





TDs (run/pass)





Passer Rating










Completion %





Avg. Yards Per Attempt





3rd-Down Passer Rating





4th-Quarter Passer Rating










The numbers are pretty self-explanatory. Every starting quarterback is going to be judged first on whether his team wins or loses. Holding onto the ball comes next and putting points on the board is No. 3.

The NFL’s passer rating system is often criticized but the basis of the formula makes sense. Remember this: it does not provide a rating for the performance of a quarterback, just a passer. There’s no way to factor in all the elements that go into being the quarterback of an NFL team.

The formula is based on four statistics: completion percentage, average yards per attempt, percentage of TD passes per attempt, percentage of interceptions per attempt. Those numbers then get manipulated by a formula that frankly I haven’t been able to figure out for the last 30 years.

The rest of the statistics are pretty obvious. The third-down passer and fourth-quarter passer ratings are based on the same formula as the overall passer rating.

Across the board, Cassel’s numbers over the last four games are improved, in some cases way up from his career stats and those he posted last season in his first year as the Chiefs starting quarterback. Look at the negative plays, the giveaways and sacks. In the last four games that’s not even on per game.

Compare that to last season, when in 15 games he was part of 61 giveaways or sacks. That’s just more than four negative plays per game. This year in six games, he’s had eight giveaways and sacks, or 1.3 per game.

Those numbers all indicate improvement on the other areas, like decision making.

Everything is not always perfect.

“Probably my least favorite play of the (Jacksonville) game was the throwback across as he was getting hit,” Haley said of one of Cassel’s five incompletions. “That was borderline carelessness with the ball that could have turned into a bad play.

“He is a developing quarterback that hasn’t had a bunch of experience and each and every game is a great opportunity for him to grow and get better. I think yesterday he did a very good job of leading this team and protecting the football as well as handling the game management and the other things he has to do.”


  • BEARS – re-signed P Richmond McGee.
  • BENGALS – placed CB Pacman Jones on the injured-reserve list (herniated disc) ending his season; released TE Dan Coats; signed TE J.P. Foschi.
  • BRONCOS – re-signed DL LeKevin Smith.
  • BROWNS – released WR Yamon Figurs; signed WR Demetrius Williams, formerly with the Ravens.
  • CARDINALS – released CB Brandon McDonald; signed CB A.J. Jefferson off their practice squad.
  • CHARGERS – signed LB David Herron; released LB Cyril Obiozor.
  • COLTS – placed P Pat McAfee on the reserve/club suspension list; placed TE Dallas Clark on the injured-reserve list (wrist) ending his season; signed DB Chip Vaughn, last with Saints.
  • DOLPHINS – re-signed CB Evan Oglesby.
  • JAGUARS – signed OT Erik Pears.
  • JETS – released NT Howard Green; signed LB Josh Mauga off their practice squad.
  • PACKERS – placed OLB Brady Poppinga on the injured-reserve list (knee) ending his season; placed DE Mike Neal on the injured-reserve list (shoulder) ending his season; released LB Maurice Simpkins; signed LB Matt Wilhelm; claimed LB Diyral Briggs off waivers from the Broncos.
  • REDSKINS – signed RB Jeremiah Johnson off their practice squad.
  • SEAHAWKS – re-signed RB Quinton Ganther.
  • VIKINGS – the NFL fined head coach Brad Childress $35,000 for comments about the officiating in the Sunday night game against Green Bay.

20 Responses to “Cassel’s Arrow Is Up … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 27, 2010  - Thomas says:

    Cassel is doing so much better this year. A lot of credit also goes to the Offensive line for protecting him and keeping him from running for his life.

  • October 27, 2010  - Tracy says:

    As much as anything else, Bob, your analysis shows just how much good has ensued with continued input from Todd Haley and the more recent efforts of Charlie Weis. It is puzzling just why those who bag on Matt Cassel in this column have failed to give him the benefit of the doubt, given his lack of experience as a starter in college and in the NFL. He is beginning to confirm the confidence placed in him by Scott Pioli and Chiefs Nation should be grateful.

    We tend to neglect the fact that Len Dawson, now in the NFL Hall of Fame, did not always have the best game.

    The whole season has so far been a real gift and that is particularly nice for those of us who also root for the Jayhawks.

  • October 27, 2010  - Mike says:

    What really impressed me was Haley watching and analyzing tape of the league’s top QBs in order to determine areas in which Cassel needed to improve. That’s something he had no time to do last year. As Cassel improves as a QB, so, too, does Haley improve as a coach. My opinion of Haley has turned almost 180 degrees since last season.

  • October 27, 2010  - Justin says:

    I just have to say that his numbers with our receivers (improved though some of them may be) are getting pretty good. I mean he had great players in New England and still lower numbers.

    I like the fact that Weiss and Haley are ‘fixing the qb.’

    Great info Bob.

  • October 27, 2010  - Rick says:

    Cassel is at best a middle of the pack QB. Thus far this year he’s had two good games, the contest against San Francisco and this past week against Jacksonville. If you look at the other 4 games it gets pretty ugly.

    It seems obvious that the emphasis the coaches are putting on things with Cassel is not to take sacks and don’t throw stupid picks. He’s doing a good job in both areas. Other than that he’s pretty pedestrian. His accuracy leaves something to be desired as evidenced by two throws in last weeks game, Bowe’s 2nd TD catch and the 3rd down conversion pass that Copper climbed a ladder to get.

  • October 27, 2010  - Niblick says:

    Rick-I disagree that the only two good games he had were SanFrancisco and Jacksonville. I thought he also had a solid game against Houston. He was especially good in the 2nd half. I guess perhaps you are basing it on the fact we lost and the throw to Moeaki late trying to get a 1st down. That was not a good throw. The defense gave up three touchdowns in the 4th quarter. You can seldom win on the road with that kind of defensive performance.

  • October 27, 2010  - el cid says:

    Sorry guys, there are to many of you who only see what you want. Bowe, Cassel, Chamber, Jackson, or whomever, are what they are. Bowe is always drop a few passes, Cassel will look good at time and inaccurate other, Chamber, historically, will not play hard once he gets his better contract, Jackson who knows what he is about. Thankfully Haley and his coaches can make inroads to change players so they can succeed BUT they are what they are. Just how well Haley and crew do will spell just how good the Chiefs are in ’10.

  • October 27, 2010  - RW says:

    I want Cassel to evolve, be consistent and excel as a NFL QB. I do. Is he top tier? I don’t think so. Is he good enough to pilot a team to the playoffs? Consistency is the key. If so, yes.

    That said, let’s project out the 2011 draft and assume the Chiefs will be drafting somewhere around the 15-20 area. Right now, what positions do you target with the first 3 rounds?

    For me, it’s: 1st Round: WR
    2d Round: LB
    3d Round: NT

    Subject to change of course. I did agonize over taking a developmental QB in one of these rounds but Cassel’s most recent efforts have shoved that need down a bit.

  • October 27, 2010  - Nate says:

    Tracy you are correct and it’s even more fun for those of us who are Mizzou Tiger fans!

  • October 27, 2010  - el cid says:

    RW, 2011 will be interesting for several reasons, got to pay Hali, Bowe, Dorsey. Might need a free agent or two at WR or MLB or DB. Reverse your draft and you got it.

  • October 27, 2010  - Chris says:

    I think we project 20 – 25 and there just isn’t a receiver that I like at that range…We need a burner…Bowe will be fine as a good possession receiver and I like McCluster but he is a slot guy…

  • October 27, 2010  - bhive01 says:

    I know I’ve ate some crow over my previous thoughts on Cassel. I still don’t think he’s a Montana, but he’s certainly on par with Green. If he can keep getting consistent protection and a threatening running attack I think I will be happy to keep him around for a while. I can’t say that i’ve noticed him improve his footwork, but that sort of thing is hard to tell if you’re not really looking for it.

  • October 27, 2010  - PAChiefsFan says:

    I hope the Chiefs continue to work and prepare hard and try to get a little better each week as coach Haley says. I hope they don’t look at Buffalo’s 0-6 record and feel they can relax and have an easy game. I think Buffalo showed they can be dangerous against the Ravens. This looks to be a game that the Chiefs should control and win but it will take ‘complementary’ football this week too. Go Chiefs!

  • October 27, 2010  - Tim says:

    I like Cassel. He does some things that are almost impossible to teach – like keeping his eyes focused downfield under pressure. More game experience will help his comfort level in the pocket. The issue is his feet & legs, which affect his accuracy as noted in the article. Bill Walsh was one of the first to recognize accuracy has as much, or more, to do with the footwork as the arm. Seems to me part of why Cassel doesn’t always seem comfortable in the pocket is because he’s still “thinking” about his footwork & positioning at times. This is because its not part of his muscle memory – YET. I for one, hope he can get there.

  • October 27, 2010  - Dave says:

    El cid…smile. We are number one in the west and are improving every game. Strangely what I want to see and reality are exactly the same.

  • October 27, 2010  - RW says:

    re: el cid

    You stated some possible variables for the off-season which could come to pass, especially at the WR position. So far, on a very limited Pioli expectation sample, he could target and acquire a guy there but methinks he won’t.

    He went after the glitz in 2010, speedy impact guys in the early rounds to atone(?) for his plodding 2009 class? That can be argued. I’m reading his master plan as getting the one more missing speed/deep threat WR, then getting back to the basics of solid defense which is always a good idea for a team wanting to minimize mistakes, pound the rock, and shut down the opposition.

    Subject to change, again stated.

  • October 27, 2010  - el cid says:

    I want a speedy WR but do not know where they can find one. Free Agent or college? I figure they will continue to pound defense, NT in particular, also MLB, DB. Maybe a need if we lose to free agency and do not seem to have a reliable replacement for Vrabel. Like him but years are against him.

    Still this season is so much better than I imagined. Next year will come to soon for me.

  • October 27, 2010  - bhive01 says:

    @El Cid, I thought Studebaker was Vrabel’s protegé. I know he’s not Vrabel, but maybe if he got more play time and Vrabel stayed on as LB coach or something then we’d have something.

  • October 27, 2010  - Edward says:

    Good to see finally some fans being realistic when it comes to talking about Cassel. Bottom line will he be Montanna or Elway who knows. But its alot of QBs in the league that want be those guys. We need Cassel to just be Matt Cassel that we’ve seen the last 4 games and also the guy that play in New England. Like I’ve said before and I’ll say it again as more receiving threats emerge in this offense Cassel numbers will continue to get better. People who doubt this guy ability to win with his arm need to go back watch highlights or any of the games he played in New England. The reason it hasn’t fully translated here is because he doesn’t have the caliber of weapons here. Now Bowe is emerging like he’s going to be a #1 threat at receiver. If he and couple more guys can step up Tucker, Mcluster and if Moeaki can continue to get better Cassel numbers will continue to climb.

    Bottom line this is our QB. We need to give the guy a break he’s not perfect. Neither is Peyton Manning, Breeze, or Tom Brady. He’s winning he’s playing better most of all he’s doing it for the Chiefs lets support the guy and stop treating him like he plays for the enemy.

  • October 29, 2010  - Dave says:

    Well said, Ed.

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