Clock is Ticking on Cassel

Haley, Pioli, and Weis, Matt Cassel is on the clock. The clock strikes noon, QB better make a play soon. Haley, Pioli, and Weis.

If only the Matt Cassel story was a nursery rhyme -- full of happy endings -- this point in the tale would be the triumphant turnaround. If it was a movie, fans on Sunday would start chanting his name late in the fourth quarter. "CASSEL, CASSEL, CASSEL!"

And if it were theatre, Haley would be on the sideline holding Cassel's helmet in the air with his left hand, saying in his best thespian voice, "To bench, or not to bench: that is the question".

But this is no love story and it is damn sure no nursery rhyme. This is the NFL, and as the old cliché goes, it stands for "Not For Long". If you don't get the job done, whether the blame is fairly bestowed upon you or not, move after move will be made until upper management finds someone who will. And in this case, we are talking about Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.

Since offensive coordinator Charlie Weis arrived last January, Warpaint Illustrated started to hear grumblings as to who Weis wanted to lead his offensive attack. The Chiefs, or more specifically Pioli, had invested $63 million and the 34th overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft in acquiring Cassel, leaving little question who was going to be in the driver's seat when the Chiefs opened the 2010 season on Monday Night Football.

But throughout training camp, backup Brodie Croyle consistently outplayed Cassel in practice. And adding to the QB controversy hype, Cassel was just average throughout preseason, and ultimately struggled in the Chiefs two opening regular season contests.

Croyle may get his chance sooner rather than later of Cassel continues to struggle.
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Besides one interception in Cleveland last week (one was off a tipped ball), Cassel has not made any glaringly bad plays in training camp or the regular season. The problem is, he has avoided doing anything at all -- good or bad. When a franchise makes these kinds of investments in a QB, they want more than a game manager. They expect a game changer.

This Sunday, the 49ers roll into Arrowhead as an 0-2 team that is due for a win. The San Francisco defense is ranked fourth in total yardage allowed and could make the task of moving the ball a challenge for an already inept offensive unit. The hard-nosed lunch pail group led by former NFL linebacker Greg Manusky takes on the persona of their third-year defensive coordinator.

However, while their opponents average less than 65 yards rushing per contest, San Francisco does have some chinks in their armor.

The 49ers allow an average of 264 yards per game, fourth most in the NFL, with 201 coming through the air. This should give Charlie Weis an opportunity to get one last look at the struggling QB before heading into the bye week. Cassel needs to respond on Sunday because a week off for Pioli and Todd Haley to mull over a deteriorating QB situation does not play into Cassel's favor.

The Chiefs coaching staff continues to think highly of Croyle, and I am sure they would like to get a long hard look at the former Alabama QB before the offseason if Cassel should fail. Croyle has proven to this point, however, that he cannot stay healthy. So if not Cassel, then who?

You may want to pay close attention to the Eagles game on Sunday for your answer. Up until last week, the Eagles had been grooming Kevin Kolb as the heir apparent to Donovan McNabb, prompting the trade of the Pro Bowl QB last April. But this past week, the Eagles officially launched the Mike Vick experiment, giving the former Falcon the nod over Kolb.

If Vick plays well on Sunday, the job could be his for the rest of the 2010 season, leaving the Eagles with an extra QB of value. The Eagles have already begun taking calls on Kolb, and if Pioli is starting to question his franchise QB, the Chiefs could be one of them. This could all change, though, if Vick falls on his face or if Cassel exceeds expectations.

Cassel's story in the NFL is not yet over, but the hourglass has been turned. The "yips" are a tough thing to shake, but Cassel has all the physical and mental skills to overcome them. Whether he can do that before Pioli, Haley, and the fans of Kansas City do is still up in the air.

One thing is for certain, however: the clock is ticking.

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