Cassel's Injury Embarrasses Chiefs

Why is Matt Cassel's leg injured? When you watch replays from Saturday night's Chiefs game, the explanation seems fairly simple – Kansas City's offensive line was beaten.

Center Rudy Niswanger and right tackle Damion McIntosh could not block Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane at the snap, allowing him to penetrate into the backfield. While Mebane didn't initially pressure Cassel his fellow tackle, Colin Cole, did.

Who was supposed to block Cole? It appeared that assignment fell to left guard Brian Waters. But he was unable to reach Cole because Niswanger and McIntosh obstructed his path. Cole pressured Cassel, who scrambled, only to be tackled by Mebane, who was loose in the backfield because he was not contained at the line of scrimmage.

It's easy to blame Niswanger and McIntosh for Cassel's injury. They simply weren't quick enough to stop Mebane, which started a chain reaction that led to Cassel's MCL sprain. Simple, right?

If you ask me, the chain reaction started months ago, when Kansas City's brain trust decided Niswanger and McIntosh were talented enough to start for the Chiefs and protect a major investment at the quarterback position. There is now no question that decision was in error.

Don't blame Niswanger and McIntosh. Blame Scott Pioli and Todd Haley.

Perhaps you don't want to – it seems nobody wants to blame Pioli and Haley for anything this early in their run - but it's only fair. If Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards had stuck around this offseason and stood pat on the offensive line, leading to another quarterback injury, would you give them a free pass? Not at all. You'd add another item to their list of professional football sins.

Right below "Inability To Draft Defensive Linemen" and "Poor Clock Management Skills," you'd add "Irresponsible Judgment Of Offensive Line Talent."

Thankfully, we don't have to complain about blunders from the previous regime anymore. But there's no sense in pretending that Pioli and Haley haven't committed an error that is equally embarrassing.

At some point, both of them undoubtedly reviewed film of last year's Chiefs team. For whatever reason, they believed they could "get by" with Niswanger and McIntosh for a year, perhaps two. Perhaps they convinced themselves that Cassel's mobility would reduce the chance of any real disasters.

Was Cassel's injury a freak chance occurrence? Not really. We should have seen this coming after two preseason games that gave his legs quite a workout. And the tale of the tape gives an even more embarrassing witness to the inept evaluation of Kansas City's offensive line talent. Specifically, Niswanger and McIntosh aren't alone in their ability to blow their assignments.

Branden Albert hasn't been perfect. It would be foolish to blame anyone for starting Albert, but Mike Goff, Pioli's handpicked free agent offensive guard, hasn't exactly been the second coming of Will Shields. In fact, as poorly as he's played, he's more reminiscent of Herm's handpicked free agent offensive guard – Adrian Jones.

As bad as the Chiefs have blocked this preseason, Cassel was bound to suffer injury at some point this year. He has above-average mobility, but Michael Vick is the only NFL quarterback with enough athleticism to avoid every defender that blows past "The Four Horsemen of the Apo-Cassel-ypse" – Albert, Niswanger, Goff and McIntosh. If you make a quarterback run for his life enough, eventually, something bad will happen.

Do we have any reason to believe Cassel would have escaped injury in the coming months against the Ravens, Eagles, Giants or Cowboys? Perhaps we're all quite lucky that this happened sooner rather than later.

Maybe Pioli and Haley realized their massive error in judgment too late? Last week's trade for Andy Alleman and Ike Ndukwe was an admirable effort to fix a clear problem in time for the regular season.

But given the state of Cassel's knee (and perhaps his ankle, if you believe certain reports), no one really cares about that now. If he's out for any length of time, can the Chiefs really ask Brodie Croyle to risk yet another injury behind the current line? It would seem almost unfair, but they may have to if they expect anyone to show up at Arrowhead Stadium, because no one really wants to watch future UFL superstar Tyler Thigpen dodge pass rushers only to overthrow wide open receivers.

Either way, the whole situation is fairly embarrassing. Pioli and Haley owe Cassel an apology. They repeated the mistake their predecessors made in setting their chosen quarterback up for a disaster. They should be held accountable. We should expect better from the NFL's Executive of the Year and a Super Bowl offensive coordinator.

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