Matt Cassel: QB AT 50 STARTS

Todd Haley studied the table of numbers on the page in front of him intently.

Titled Current NFL Starting QBs At 50 Regular-Season Starts, it provided a list of 20 starting quarterbacks and their statistics after those first 50 NFL starts.

Haley’s quarterback Matt Cassel just made the list; his 50th start was two weeks ago against the Colts in Indianapolis.

As he ran his finger over the columns of statistics, the Chiefs head coach stopped first at TD passes and interceptions. Haley then moved to completion percentage. Finally he zeroed in on the won-loss record of the teams in those 50 games.

He liked what he saw.

“When you look at these numbers it shows that Matt belongs,” Haley said. “We’ve known that but this shows you he’s doing a lot of good things. His interceptions are low compared to other quarterbacks. His TD to INT ratio is very high. His completion percentage is high and it’s gotten better this year.

“There are some guys on here with just unbelievable numbers … Aaron Rodgers, (Ben) Roethlisberger. I think this shows the development that Matt has made since that season (2008) with the Patriots.”


Cassel’s status continues to be much discussed by Chiefs fans and has been since the February day when the trade with New England was announced.

Invariably, the question always comes back to: is Matt Cassel the “franchise quarterback” that can lead Kansas City to football’s Promised Land?

When Cassel and LB Mike Vrabel were dealt to the Chiefs by the Patriots, there was not a mountain of performance evidence on just how good he could be. Cassel had not been a starter at Southern Cal and only stepped into that role with New England after the 2008 season opener when Chiefs SS Bernard Pollard hit QB Tom Brady on his left knee and knocked him out for the season.

When he came to Kansas City, he had just those 15 starts; not nearly enough of a sampling to identify Cassel’s potential.

But as the Chiefs head to Oakland to face the Raiders this Sunday, Cassel now has 50 career starts. The victory in Indianapolis was his 35th start with the Chiefs, giving him a career total of half-a-hundred. There’s nothing particularly special about 50 starts, other than it’s a nice round number and most of the league’s starting quarterbacks get at least that much time to show whether they’ve got the ability to lead their teams.

With a lot of changes at the starting quarterback spot, there are a lot of names in the hopper, but there are 19 teams and 20 quarterbacks with at least 50 starts. Cassel is the most recent addition to that list, joining Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco who reached the milestone earlier this year.

On the NFL calendar, 50 starts equal three full seasons as a starting QB, plus two games of a fourth season. Not every QBs profile runs in that manner. Cassel has 15 (2008), 15 (2009), 15 (2010) and 5 (2011).

Essentially, what the numbers show is this – Cassel has played to the level of a better than average NFL quarterback through his first 50 starts. Evaluated in a vacuum, the numbers indicate that Cassel can play the game at a level good enough to lead a team to the playoffs. He has a winning record as a starter at 26-24.

But it’s impossible to evaluate a starting quarterback in a vacuum. Items like the quality of teammates, the quality of opponents each year, the quality of coaching he’s received, injuries – all are factors that can’t be ignored.

Whether Cassel is a good enough quarterback to lead the Chiefs to a post-season run and possible championship is not reflected in those first 50 numbers. Among those 20 quarterbacks is Rodgers with sterling numbers across the board that led to a Super Bowl title back in February. But Dallas starter Tony Romo has first 50 numbers that are almost a mirror image of Rodgers and he’s only been able to win a single post-season game.

By the time they reached their 50th start, Tom Brady was part of two Super Bowl championship teams, while Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger had one each. Both Brady and Roethlisberger added championships after start No. 50, as did Drew Brees and Eli Manning.

Here’s a closer look at Cassel’s numbers and how he compared:

  • Most QBs reached their 50th start in their mid-20s. Cassel is one of the oldest to get it done at 29, along with Romo and Houston’s Matt Schaub.
  • His attempts and completions totaled in the bottom half of the group, as did his total passing yards.
  • Cassel’s completion percentage of 59.5 percent in those 50 starts ranks in the bottom third. It’s been an area where he’s improved tremendously this season, with a completion percentage of 66.4 percent.
  • At 6.7 yards per attempted pass, Cassel’s in the bottom half of the league, but there’s a reason for that. In 2008, his job was not to throw interceptions as the replacement for Brady. It wasn’t until the end of the season that Bill Belichick opened up the offense and allowed Cassel to throw the ball. In 2009, he had absolutely nobody to throw the ball to with the Chiefs; no big play threats.
  • His 71 TD passes places him in the top half of the group, while his relatively low interception total of 39 ranks in the top five for fewest picks.
  • In that group of 20 quarterbacks, 15 finished those first 50 starts with a winning record. That’s always going to be the statistic that decides whether a quarterback stays in the starting lineup.

4 Responses to “Matt Cassel: QB AT 50 STARTS”

  • October 22, 2011  - James says:

    I’ll win the lottery before Cassel wins a playoff game for the Chiefs.

  • October 22, 2011  - Milkman says:

    Stats aside, is Matt Cassel capable of taking his team on his shoulders and winning games largely by himself like the elite quarterbacks who play the game today? It is probably unfair to judge him in that manner because there are very few quarterbacks who can. But if we have even a remote chance to land one of these, shouldn’t we take that chance? Everyone talks about some of the young quarterbacks liky Ryan, Flacco, Freeman,and Bradford to name a few. But even they haven’t proven they can be game changers on a consistent basis. The real ones- Rodgers, Brady, Manning, Brees,and Rivers are what we would all like to have. We can’t just give up on finding one because we have a quarterback who puts up decent #’s.

  • October 22, 2011  - Blake says:

    I think Cassel can win a playoff game for KC, winning a few playoff games is a different story…

  • October 22, 2011  - Chuck says:

    Its kinda hard to explain after looking at all the mind boggling stats of everybody after their first 50 games. But I can say this. I have watched literally every game that Cassel has played as a Chief and he does have a “tendancy” to choke in the “Big Games”. Just go back thru the Cassel and Chief history and you will see what I mean. He does not seem to win the really big games. The 2 most recent that comes to my mind are the way we finished the season last year with the Raiders (lost 31-10) and the playoff game with the Ravens (lost 30-7). Go back and look at the big games and he just can’t seem to perform like a champion when you really need him to.

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