A month ago, did anyone think Cassel would wear red and gold this year? There was speculation, but nothing solid until the news came out that Mike Vrabel was heading to the Chiefs last Friday. Only then did people start to regard Cassel in Kansas City as a real possibility.
Still, some are not satisfied. There is no shortage of Chiefs fans who are not confident in Cassel's abilities as a franchise quarterback, and would prefer Matt Stafford or Mark Sanchez, some other Quarterback Y or Z.
But Cassel is here, and likely not going anywhere for awhile. So what does he bring to the Chiefs that really separates him from any other quarterback available this offseason?
Who led this team a year ago? Brodie Croyle? You can't lead from the sideline. Tony Gonzalez? No one wants to follow someone who's trying to leave town. Dwayne Bowe? Too young, too inconsistent.
The Chiefs didn't have a leader in the locker room last season and it showed. Do you think it's difficult to win a closely-contested game with a lack of fourth-quarter leadership in the huddle? No wonder the Chiefs kept coming so close, yet falling short time and again.
With Cassel under center, none of that should be an issue. We've already heard about his rapid maturation in 2008 as a New England Patriot. Forget Cassel's 11 wins and the 3,693 yards passing. The mere fact that long-time teammates of Tom Brady were following a first-year starter as if he were the pied piper by season's end is his most impressive accomplishment to date.
Finally, let's not forget that real leaders are both respected and feared. Do you think Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have the locker room's attention after the little brouhaha that will henceforth be known as "Watersgate?" Because of their familiarity with him, and the fact that they chose him above any other quarterback this offseason, Cassel now becomes an extension of Pioli and Haley.
It's unlikely any other available quarterback, rookie or otherwise, could carry that kind of clout right off the bat.
Not since Trent Green have the Chiefs possessed a quarterback so well-versed in their current offensive system. Not only did Cassel execute New England's offense at a high level last season, he spent three years on the bench behind Brady, running the scout team, fulfilling all the duties of a backup quarterback. For those three seasons, because he barely had any on-the-field football life, his off-the-field football life essentially WAS his football life, his nose buried in formations, terminology, audibles, and who knows what else.
Peter King recently revealed, per Haley, that New England's offense and the offense now being installed in Kansas City are quite similar. Do you think it will make a bit of a difference when the unquestioned leader of the football team is also the player with the most intimate knowledge of the offensive scheme? In essence, Cassel can almost be like a coach on the field.
It's a complete 180-degree turn from the Chiefs had previously suffered through with Croyle and Tyler Thigpen. Instead of dealing with an inexperienced quarterback trying to either get up to speed within an old offensive system (Mike Solari's sawed-off version of Al Saunders' offense) or learning a completely new one (Chan Gailey's) along with the rest of his teammates, the Chiefs will now enjoy a luxury - having a quarterback on the field who knows where everyone is supposed to be, and when they are supposed to be there.
You may remember this scenario led to a lot of interceptions in Green's first season. Fans then called for the quarterback's head before quieting down when the touchdowns began pouring out of KC's offense. Perhaps this time around, we can all be a little more patient if Cassel's new teammates don't make him look quite as good as Randy Moss and Wes Welker did.
So while Cassel may have an accurate arm, and surprising mobility for a 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback, it is his unmeasurables that will do the Chiefs the most good, at least for the time being. Likely, that is why Pioli chose him above Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, or any Quarterback Y or Z this offseason.
So the only remaining question is this: is Cassel more Drew Bledsoe than Neil O'Donnell, more Tony Romo than Bernie Kosar, as it was phrased in the first part of this extensive, authoritative treatise on the nature of Quarterback X?
Do we really want to see a Matt Cassel-led Chiefs team facing off against Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady in future AFC playoff games? Regardless of the strength of the rest of the team, is that really a scenario we feel confident walking into?
Would some fans feel more confident in Stafford or Sanchez, options Y and Z?
To answer that question, it's only fair to point out that Cassel was a disappointing 1-3 against Roethlisberger, Cutler, Rivers and Manning last season. However, in Week 16 he did manage to best Kurt Warner, who would not fall again until the Super Bowl.
Is that, combined with the rest of his talents, enough for anyone to feel truly confident in Cassel going forward? Until this fall, we won't really know for sure. And so we wait for Quarterback X to show us if he's truly better than Y and Z.
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