Issues Surrounding The Chiefs: Cassel, Cutler

Michael Ash returns this week to discuss Matt Cassel, Jay Cutler and Mike Vrabel.

I'm torn over the Chiefs' decision to trade for Matt Cassel.

It's not hard to make a case for why I don't like the trade. Admittedly, though, most of my complaints would probably come off as whining about the Chiefs not drafting a quarterback. But I'll still state my case to some degree, because it was the perfect time to finally make that move. The Chiefs, as everyone knows, haven't drafted a quarterback in the first round since Todd Blackledge in 1983. In the 26 years since, seldom have the Chiefs ever been in position to select one of the draft's top quarterback prospects.

This year, they had that chance. With a new general manager and a young, offensive-minded head coach, it just seemed like the perfect time to take that step. But barring the most unlikely of circumstances, it no longer appears to be in the cards.

I may have been caught up in the idea of the Chiefs finally having a quarterback they can call their own, someone who they actually drafted and groomed themselves. It happened with Brodie Croyle, but that experiment fizzled rather quickly. In a division where you see young first-round quarterbacks everywhere you look, I was looking forward to the Chiefs finally gaining membership in that club.

Of course, from Scott Pioli's perspective, none of this is relevant because he was part of the drafting and grooming of Cassel. Pioli can already call Cassel his own. Unfortunately, what Pioli did in New England doesn't carry over to the rest of us, or we'd all be bragging about our Super Bowl victories and 16-0 season.

Putting that issue aside, the trade isn't entirely negative. There are aspects to like. Perhaps the biggest positive is the fact Pioli clearly isn't afraid to take risks.


Cassel - more of a risk than Stafford?
G Doug Benc - Getty

Trading for Cassel is a considerable risk. He's not a veteran quarterback with an established track record, the kind of "safe" player Carl Peterson would have pursued. Cassel is a 26 year-old who has started 15 games in his pro career. Before Tom Brady's injury, Cassel hadn't started a single game since high school.

There's no guarantee he'll succeed outside New England. Cassel may be nothing but a flash in the pan. Maybe he was just the flavor of the month, a one-year wonder, a fluke.

But none of that is news to Pioli. By trading for Cassel when the Chiefs were in position to draft a top-rated quarterback, our new general manager hasn't wasted any time putting himself in the line of fire.

By pulling the trigger on the trade, Pioli made it clear he believes Cassel is the Chiefs' best option. Pioli is telling us that Cassel is better than Tyler Thigpen. More importantly, he's telling us that no matter how good Matt Stafford or Mark Sanchez may turn out to be, Cassel will be better.

In terms of Pioli's credibility, trading for Cassel may actually be a riskier move than taking a quarterback in the draft. It sounds silly to say adding a quarterback who's faced real NFL defenses might be more of a gamble than adding a rookie, but consider everything Pioli has invested in this decision.

If Pioli can't properly evaluate Cassel, a player he's been around for the last four years, what does that say about his ability to judge NFL talent? If Cassel struggles at the start of the season, it'll be no time at all before the usual suspects are out to declare Pioli a fraud and assert that Bill Belichick was the reason for all New England's success.

While Cassel struggles, what if the one of the rookie quarterbacks starts for his team and plays the way Matt Ryan did last year? Hellfire and brimstone will be falling from the skies in Kansas City in no time.

But none of that is news to Pioli either. So considering what he's putting on the line with this move, how can you not at least be a little excited by the obvious confidence he has in Cassel? Pioli clearly believes Cassel was more than just a lucky system quarterback who was throwing to Randy Moss, and he's practically staking his reputation on it.

You have to like that Pioli isn't afraid to take risks. Playing it safe will only take a team so far. Sometimes you have to gamble to be great.


The trade with New England may end up as a two-for-one deal – not only did Pioli acquire a quarterback, he might have subtracted one from the Denver Broncos.

Ultimately, I expect the drama in Denver to end with Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels hugging it out. But how amusing is it to know that the Broncos' decision makers would rather have the Chiefs' quarterback than the one they inherited?

A lot of "Cassel vs. Cutler" debates have popped up since this story broke, most of which seem fairly pointless. Considering Cassel was a seventh-round pick and a career backup until Brady's injury, nearly every argument will fall in Cutler's favor. The real debate won't start until a few years down the road.


Cassel - the Cutler killer?
Jamie Squire - Getty

Many have rationalized McDaniels' interest in Cassel as the Patriots' former coordinator wanting the quarterback who ran his offense last season. Cassel isn't a better quarterback than Cutler, the theory goes, he's just more familiar with McDaniels' system.

That makes sense to a degree. But is McDaniels really so short-sighted he'd run off a better quarterback just to land someone who already knows his plays?

No matter how you answer that question, it's good news for the Chiefs. If that really is how McDaniels approached the issue, that type of ridiculous decision-making certainly bodes well for KC's future chances in the AFC West.

But if we give McDaniels a little more credit than that, perhaps he – like Pioli – is convinced that Cassel is a quarterback a team can build around. In fact, maybe McDaniels would legitimately prefer Cassel over Cutler. While there's no questioning Cutler's physical abilities, there are questions about his mental makeup, issues that have only grown larger with his reaction to this latest episode.

In summary, don't count me among those who are hoping to see the Chiefs and Broncos pull off a quarterback swap. I'm fine with waiting on Cassel, rather than having to cross my fingers and hope that Cutler gets his act together.


It's almost become a forgotten aspect of the Cassel trade, but I really like the addition of Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs.

When describing the trade, one of the hosts on the NFL Network said the Chiefs had acquired a quarterback for their offense (Cassel) and a quarterback for their defense (Vrabel). That's a nice way to summarize the move.

Who knows how many more years Vrabel plans to play or how much left he has in the tank. I'm not expecting him to turn KC's defense into a noticeably better unit. But he immediately becomes the unquestioned captain of the Chiefs' defense, and for the first time in a long time the team has a leader who knows something about winning.

For that matter, it seems like a long time since the Chiefs have had a leader at all. Some equate "veteran" with "leadership," but who's really been filling that role lately?

Tony Gonzalez, who threw a public fit when he didn't get to break a record the way he'd envisioned it? Brian Waters, who demanded a trade when he showed up unannounced at Arrowhead and was aghast when the new brass didn't roll out the red carpet? Are these the players who've been setting the example?

As somebody who's been there, done that, and has multiple rings to show for it, Vrabel's presence should be a great addition to a young defensive squad – even if his best days are already behind him.

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