Matt Cassel hating is hardly justified

Matt Cassel USC
With 15 career NFL starts, Matt Cassel will earn $15 million with the 2009 Kansas City Chiefs. Response to the pay raise will vary, with doubters calling the escalation outrageous, based on the little work put in. But the one year contract still pales in comparison, when you see the guaranteed money received by rookie Matthew Stafford, and expected guarantees for Mark Sanchez, before either takes their first professional snap.

Cassel managed to win 10 of his 15 starts with the Patriots, which did little to satisfy his critics. If a first round quarterback goes 10 of 15 in his NFL debut, he’s living up to his expectations and earning his money. When a seventh round slinger records 10 victories, clouds of doubt remain, though he exceeded early expectations of failure. For Matt Cassel, it has become easier for some to look past NFL production, return to the origin of hate based opinions, and focus on his idle years at USC.

Cassel didn’t start a single game in college, and everyone knows that. But I can’t understand why people continue to hold that against him, using the lack of playing time at USC as a measuring stick. 10 NFL victories, combined with a seventh round draft selection and no collegiate snaps, slaps him with the label of “system quarterback”. Tom Brady, a sixth round draft pick, won 11 of his first 14 regular season starts. Why wasn’t he tagged the same? Why was there so much confidence going into Brady’s second season as a starter, yet so much doubt surrounding Cassel? 

When you compare the two, Brady’s 2,853 yards in 2001 are fewer than Cassel’s 3,693 in 2008. Cassel’s eleven picks were less acceptable than Brady’s twelve. Cassel’s 11-5 New England team failed to qualify for the postseason. Brady’s 11-5 Patriots did, eventually claiming their first Lombardi Trophy. For Tom Brady’s regular season numbers, he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Cassel, with the better numbers, did not.

New England followed the 2001 Super Bowl with a 9-7 mark and no postseason play, yet Brady was still the anointed hero. Cassel’s follow up comes this September with the Chiefs, and again we have rumblings of failure.

No offense to Cassel, but he’s a college and NFL bench-warmer who had the luxury of playing quarterback alongside the greatest offensive force (Moss) the league has seen since Jim Brown. Last season Cassel stepped into a moving vehicle and did a good job of not running off the road. Kansas City’s offense has been stuck in neutral since Dick Vermeil left. And now the one reliable tire left on KC’s car moved to Atlanta. This smells like 15 TDs and 20 interceptions, doesn’t it? Or maybe seven TDs, 12 interceptions and a season-ending injury halfway through the season.—Kansas City Star

The reporter may be right, or he could be wrong. It’s a wait-and-see scenario. Kansas City doesn’t present much offensively, but who’s to say Tom Brady would have equal success in that new environment, seeing that he’s never played a game outside of the cozy New England system. Maybe it’s because he actually played at Michigan, since the author goes on to add this:

“Most backup quarterbacks are backups for a good reason. They don’t marinate on the bench for eight years waiting to be discovered. My problem with Cassel is he didn’t transfer out of USC when he was stuck behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. The great ones generally have massive egos that can’t be satisfied riding the pine.”

First, the length of time spent on the bench is often determined by who you’re playing behind. How much longer would Aaron Rodgers be marinating, if there was a younger Brett Favre in Green Bay?  Second, as far as the USC bench warming goes, get over it. It’s totally irrelevant to the NFL and any production or lack thereof.  Jason White started 31 games and won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.  Where is he now?

There’s plenty of hate, but little to support it. Justification may come in 2009, but until then, people should stop the nitpicking and await the follow up, instead of scripting Cassel’s future for him. Is he a system quarterback? I don’t know. Can you say with certainty that Tom Brady is not?

[Kansas City Star]


~ by Anthony on June 1, 2009.

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