Surviving The Process … Saturday Cup O’Chiefs

There’s one thing that Matt Cassel knows, and if he doesn’t then somebody should give him the information.

Len Dawson was booed by Chiefs fans. Terry Bradshaw was booed by Steelers fans. John Elway was booed by Broncos fans. Insert name of Hall of Fame quarterback and he was booed by fans of the insert name team he played for during his career.

There were some Chiefs fans back in the day that believed Dawson didn’t take enough chances with his passes, that he threw short dinks and dunks and that he did not go down the field as much as he could have, especially since he was calling the plays. His career completion percentage of 57.1 percent, his career average of 7.7 yards per attempt and his 237 TD passes to 178 interceptions look like pretty good numbers now.

But in the day, some Chiefs followers were unhappy and they let Dawson know it, firing verbal assaults from the stands at both Municipal and Arrowhead Stadiums.

That’s a simple fact of life for an NFL starting quarterback. The scene gets played out over and over around the league. Guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have escaped it so far, but their careers are not over yet. They still have plenty of opportunities to throw interceptions or badly timed incompletions that will raise the vocal hackles of their fan base.

Cassel reiterated the other day that he does not read papers, watch TV sports or listen to sports talk radio. I’m sure he doesn’t spend any time on Internet sites or web forums.

“I just try to block it out,” Cassel said this week. “That is something that goes along with this job. You are always going to be tested and there is always going to be scrutiny and there is always going to be somebody saying, ‘hey, he is not good enough. He can’t do this, he can’t do that.’

“I have a job to do and right now my job is to be the quarterback of this team. I am going to go out and work hard and do everything I need to do to be productive on the field.”  

If one were to take the denunciations of Cassel that have poured forth through all those media portals that he does not pay attention to, then one could make the assumption Cassel and his position as the team’s starting quarterback engenders no confidence in the Chiefs and the team’s future.

But caution should prevail in making that leap. Some unimpressed media types and a few callers to sports talk radio or posters to Internet sites do not constitute a majority of Chiefs fans. Not everyone has written him off after 15 starts for the team. While it might be more accurate to say he has not been embraced by the Chiefs Nation as a whole, it’s a stretch to paint him as the latest failure among franchise quarterbacks.

Chiefs fans for decades now have screamed and complained about the team not drafting and developing their own quarterback. Based on some of the reaction to Cassel, it’s obvious those who bled red and gold would have no more patience with a young guy than an inexperienced quarterback who came from another team. They would chew him up and spit him out in a matter of years.

And that’s the pisser in this whole thing. No position on the field requires more patience in developing a contributing player than quarterback. In fact all the other positions combined may not require the patience needed to find that franchise quarterback. Yet, it’s the position where the media, fans and even the teams struggle to deal with growth and development. It takes time to become a good quarterback, but impatience generally stops the clock dead in its tracks.

The other day Todd Haley said that as far as he’s concerned no spot on the roster is ranks ahead of another. “The inside backer in the base defense is no more important than a gunner on the punt team,” Haley said. “The more our guys think that way, the better for us.”

It’s all well and good if that kind of thinking can be created within a locker room. But everybody in that room knows, as does the head coach and his staff, the GM and his staff and the ownership family, that there is one player that IS more important, and that’s the starting quarterback.

Whether he’s a so-called franchise QB, a care-taker, a game-manager, a rookie thrown to the wolves or a grizzled veteran playing out his final NFL days, the starting quarterback is the most important player on any pro football team. No other player has a greater effect on winning or losing than the guy taking the snaps.

Consider this for a moment – Todd Haley was willing to jettison his offensive coordinator last year just 10 days before the start of the regular season because he knew the situation wasn’t going to work with Chan Gailey. Do you think if Haley thought for a minute that Cassel wasn’t up to the task, that the only quarterback the Chiefs added in the off-season would have been Tyler Palko?

Asked for areas where he’s seen improvement from his starting quarterback and Haley gets pretty vague. But Friday he identified an area that while simple, is one of the most important elements for the success of a starting quarterback.

“When he comes off the field, what he says he saw generally ends up being what it was,” Haley said. “I think that’s a real good quality to have. Even subtle things within a game, you’ll say to him why did you do this, and he’ll say this linebacker did this, the receiver stumbled, or that receiver was short, the safety did this.

“Generally it’s pretty spot on what he sees. He sees the whole field. That was something that Kurt (Warner) was phenomenal at. A quarterback has to have great vision. Matt sees what’s happening.”

Today’s game is built around the quarterbacks, and the teams that have great ones do everything they can to keep them and provide them with weapons. Those that don’t have the top-line quarterbacks are constantly searching for a player who can play the position well enough that he’s not an impediment to winning.

These are all facts of football life. Head coaches and the quarterbacks themselves know it better than anybody, but they seldom will address or recognize that point in public. The pressure is tough enough without adding more fuel to the fire with your own hose.

That’s why if you’ve listened to any of Cassel’s press conferences over the last two seasons you know that they were filled with clichés, pat and rehearsed answers, and few moments of real insight of him, the position or the team. That’s all done on purpose. Cassel can’t do anything about his name being in the headlines, but he can make sure it’s not there because of something that came out of his mouth.

Still, every so often a bit of the real Cassel leaks out. The competitor in him sneaks out of the cage and makes an appearance before he’s coaxed back into the shadows. It happened this week when Cassel was asked if he likes to prove critics wrong.

“It is always nice to have that happen but at the same time, I don’t play this game for the people that are against me and think that I can’t do it,” said Cassel. “I play the game for the people that have always believed in me. I play that game for my family, for my wife, for my mother so it really comes down to that. There are going to be people, no matter where you go or what you do, there are going to be people who look at you and say, ‘you can’t do it’.”

The tone of his voice, the jut of his jaw and the fire in his eyes as he answered the question gave away the fact that while it’s not the No. 1 motivating factor for him, the chance to show everyone he can be a successful NFL quarterback – including the naysayers – is part of what drives him.

At this point in time, we don’t know where Matt Cassel’s future will take him or the Chiefs. There have been flashes of talent and skill that indicate he has some of the necessary qualities. There have also been moments when his failures have indicated he’s not nearly consistent enough right now to lead a team to a winning season.

That’s what makes the Monday night game against San Diego so important. It’s a benchmark for the team, but especially for Cassel. Last year, the Chargers rolled into Arrowhead Stadium in October and embarrassed the Chiefs and made Cassel look very bad. San Diego won by 30 points and Cassel completed just 10 of 25 passes (40 percent) for 97 yards (3.88 yards per attempt), one TD and three interceptions. It produced a passer rating of 25.3, one of his lowest ratings of the season and his 30 games as an NFL starting quarterback.

Cassel did not get much in the way of help in that first meeting with the Chargers. He was sacked five times, the offense generated just 203 total yards and Bobby Wade was the leading receiver, catching four passes for 66 yards.

The second time the teams met last season was not much better, as the Chargers won by 29 points in San Diego. Cassel was marginally better, hitting 19 of 31 passes (61.3 percent) for 178 yards (5.74 yards per attempt), one TD and one interception.

“Once you start winning ball games and you start playing well and the team starts playing well that takes care of itself,” Cassel said.

Monday night is but one leg of a 16-segment marathon for the Chiefs and Cassel. As he was quick to say the other day, “It is week one of 16 games. I don’t think this is our Super Bowl,” Cassel said.

But it’s a huge night for Matt Cassel, because it’s a huge season for him. He must establish that he has the consistency and the ability to lead the Chiefs to winning performances. The time is now.


  • BILLS – placed ILB Kawika Mitchell (foot) on the injured-reserve list, ending his season. Mitchell suffered the injury in a practice on Wednesday; signed LB Akin Ayodele, last with the Broncos.
  • TITANS – center Kevin Mawae announced his retirement after 16 years in the league with the Seahawks, Jets and Titans. Mawae, the current president of the NFL Players Association.

24 Responses to “Surviving The Process … Saturday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 11, 2010  - Butler says:

    And thats a big AMEN GO Chiefs Go

  • September 11, 2010  - RW says:

    A case could be made that the most important position on any NFL team is that team’s chief talent evaluator, the GM. So far, he’s about as good (or bad) as Cassel.

  • September 11, 2010  - Rick says:

    RW he had a damn good draft this year. The people they drafted have added overall team speed something we didn’t have. I will go out on a limb and say Javier or Dex will one or two games this year for us with a return or field position from returns. First year not his scouts, not his personnel, helping Pioli make decisions. I like the direction of the Chiefs and I like our GM and HC. Bob this was a VERY good read!!

  • September 11, 2010  - Dave says:

    Because we all love the Chiefs, we all want him to do well. Right or wrong, the problem I continue to have is how much we are paying him. Probably not the best take…

  • September 11, 2010  - Dave says:

    Just a great article. Thanks!

  • September 11, 2010  - Nate says:

    Dave, why do you give a damn how much Cassel is paid? You don’t know the details of his contract or how much of it is guaranteed. If we can believe the local fishwrap, the chiefs can opt out of his contract after this year. All that really matters is if he can become a winning QB for the Chiefs. Nate

  • September 11, 2010  - el cid says:

    What a load. The fans have no patience, wow, where did you discover that? When Pioli took over, I do not recall one fan (or expert) who said “now if only the Chiefs had Cassel, then look out”. There were lots of opinions about this college QB or that but never Cassel. He was a backup in college and the NFL except for ONE year.

    Matt is a tough guy but a manager with enough talent around him, PERIOD. You cannot expect him to carry a team on his back anywhere.

    When this vaulted rebuild is complete (based on what has happened so far), it is not likely Cassel will even be in the NFL much less a starting QB. Then we can wait til the next “hope” is ready. And that is what really P***es me off about the current regime of the Chiefs, the future is rosy but will it ever arrive and WHEN?

  • September 11, 2010  - George says:

    I can’t wait for Monday night!

    Go Chiefs!

  • September 11, 2010  - JohnNdallas says:

    said Cassel. “I play the game for the people that have always believed in me. I play that game for my family, for my wife, for my mother so it really comes down to that.”
    Well I don’t know how much Haley and Pioli coach Cassel on what to say or not say but, I’m sure if Haley had his druthers Cassel would have included his Team in the above statement, and so would have I.

    Cassel biggest problem in my eyes is his accuracy and a lack of confidence. The confidence will come with some success, but the accuracy, I don’t know if that’s something that can be taught. Working on his mechanics may help some, all we can do is hope. Cassel’s smart, tough, mobile enough to be a good QB, so I’m going to take a wait and see approach on a final judgment on Matt.
    Seems real in vogue for the yackin heads to hammer Cassel on his arm strength, and that argument has some validity to it, stands to reason if you can put some heat on the ball you can squeeze it in to smaller windows, but I know a QB that didn’t have much of an arm at all, that had a pretty decent career in the league, Joe Montana. I also still have a very clear image of Cassel throwing DEEP to Moss from inside his own end zone on opening day in 2008 for a 50-60 yard gain.

    Show Me Matt!

  • September 11, 2010  - MarkInTexas says:

    I agree, Mr. Ndallas, that Matt has adequate arm strength to make all the required throws and that confidence is a big part of his problem right now. Of course, it’s a chicken and egg thing with success and confidence.

    I am still hopeful that improved offensive line play, fewer receiver drops, an explosive running game and McCluster’s play making will contribute to Matt having some success. Hopefully some early success will breed more of it.

    Improved starting field position, thanks to team Arenas/McCluster, won’t hurt the offense either.

    We’ll see.

  • September 11, 2010  - leonard says:

    The issue I have with Cassel is his lack of command of the offense. He appears lax, and confused at the start of a game. He needs to get his head straight at the start of the game, not the 2ng qtr. Patience is a virtue Bob, and unfortunately that is not the way it is in the NFL today. I hope Matt can get a good start Monday, or there will be little patience, and he will here it from the crowd. Like it or not, The Chiefs nation is tired of losing, and Matt needs to get agressive in his play,not his usual ho hum approach or it will be a long year. After 20 years, I did not renew my season tickets, due to financial reasons. The players, and the teams need to take the fans into considertion as they shovel out massive amounts of money to the players and owners. I will be watching every game on TV, and hopefully I will get to a couple of home games, but always Go Chiefs.

  • September 11, 2010  - Michael says:

    It’s only the beginning of year 2 for the new regime of Pioli and Haley. Big strides have been made, and I see only better things ahead.

  • September 11, 2010  - el cid says:

    Michael, I hope you are such a backer in 2012. Other than Vrabel, Succop, and the 2010 draft, there is not a whole lot better things in the headlights for the rest of the Pioli/Haley efforts. Of course, it is your rose colored glasses you are looking thru.

  • September 11, 2010  - Rick says:

    on the flip side of this el cid i hope you have to eat alot of crow after 2011. I for one choose to look at the cup half full instead of half empty

  • September 11, 2010  - cychief24 says:

    Impossible to tell how good Cassel will be with the pathetic O-line last year. Waters had a bad ankle all year and was a shell of himself. Nicewanger is a career back up at best. RG and RT were basically vacant.
    Hopefully a healthy Waters, Weigmann, Lilja will make the line serviceable. RT is still vacant :(

    Still, I can’t wait to make the drive from Des Moines to see us on MNF!!!!!

  • September 11, 2010  - el cid says:

    Gee Rick, you mean I need to wait til after 2011 to eat crow. WOW, two whole years of whatever so you can say eat crow. Talk about a long range plan. The players union is getting into anti trust action, there may not even be a 2011 season but WTF, go ahead and grin about all those victories.

  • September 11, 2010  - Russell says:

    No One really believes Cassel is a GREAT QB, but he “CAN” be good enough to win. Nowadays the comp is so fierce that unless a team has the weapons, it is a long haul….

  • September 11, 2010  - rufus says:

    my theory is scott pioli is satan and he’s going to ruin the greatest team in the universe but make everybody watch them play football… lol

  • September 12, 2010  - Michael says:

    Well, el cid, I’ve been a Chiefs fan since 1968, so that should tell you something about my patience and optimism. I am an optimist by nature; so you are right, it’s all just depends on your personal perspective. My optimism doesn’t come out of thin air, though. I have my reasons for it, just as you do for your pessimism. No big deal; we just disagree.

    What I find interesting is that bottom line, you’re probably the most optimistic one on here. You believe that a different GM and Coach could have turned this team into playoff caliber team in one year, right after taking over from the Herm era. Now that is optimism.

  • September 12, 2010  - Rick says:

    typo el cid I meant after we are done playing this year which is in year 2011. I like Michael choose to have optimisim. What would we rather have more of Herm Edwards around here???? It was awful hard to have optimism with him as coach. Chambers has a chance this year to be a 1000 yd receiver if he continues where he left off. Remember Okoye and Word both almost rushed for 1000 yds each. Jones and Charles have a chance to do that. Arenas has a chance to return some punts/kickoffs for TD’s if the preseason was any indication of what he can do. So yeah El cid we have reason for optimism this year. Go Chiefs!!!

  • September 12, 2010  - Dave says:

    Nate-relax, bro.

  • September 12, 2010  - Nate says:

    OK Dave. No offense meant. Nate

  • September 12, 2010  - Edward says:

    El cid you’re a weird dude. The only one saying the future is not here now is you. Then you say things like we’re this many yrs away. That’s what you feel that’s not how Pioli, Haley, or Cassell feels. Or even a large majority of the fan base.

    Anyways I think Cassel has proven to me he can lead this team to a good season. All the talk about the Raiders being the team that will improve this season is all fine and good but I actually think it will be us. I think the run game will be in the top 5. I expect with a better receving core Cassel to put up numbers similiar to the one’s he had in New England. Also having an improved pass protection won’t hurt either. Lastly I think Crennell will help improve this pass rush utilizing guys like Studebaker and Williams not just Tamba. Factor in Berry being a huge addition to the secondary we can win 9-10 games looking at this schedule.

  • September 12, 2010  - Edward says:

    The article is about Cassel so let me say this. I think you learn more about the character of a person when they face adversity versus when they’re having success. Cassel could have gave up last yr especially in games like Jacksonville & Dallas when things didn’t start out good. This guy kept fighting and even after games against the Chargers this guy held his head high and didn’t point the finger. If guys like Parcells measure good or great quarterback by not just arm strength and accuracy both things which Cassel possess, but also the intangibles. This guy intangibles I think is what is going to help this guy be a successful quarterback. I think what truly has helped this guy career is playing behind Brady learning how to be a pro how to prepare. I think you factor in the fact he’s had success on a winnning team in New England also shows him he can play in this league when being put in a position to succeed. I think with the team around him now he’s in that position once again.

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