Leslie Frazier was clear with what he was looking for in a quarterback the Vikings could obtain through free agency and Matt Cassel said all the right things to convince the Vikings head coach he was the ideal fit.
The word used by Frazier last month before the market opened and by Cassel after signing with the Vikings was "perfect."
"I felt like it was a perfect fit for me, the community, my family, but also being part of a team last year that went 10-6 that's a team that's young, that's up and coming and a winner, to be quite frank," Cassel said after signing a two-year contract with the Vikings. "I'm just really excited to be part of the team. That's really what made it so attractive to me."
For Frazier, talent was one thing, but the most important element he outlined last month was that a veteran backup would have to know his role. Frazier continues to stand by Christian Ponder as his starter and he doesn't want a veteran undermining the development of the 2011 first-round draft pick.
"If it's the right guy, it would be perfect. It's got to be a guy that comes in and understands that Christian is our starting quarterback," Frazier said before acquiring Cassel. "But, yeah, he's got to be ready to play at any given time. That's just the nature of being the backup quarterback. He'd have to understand his role. That would be the key. If the guy comes in and has the mindset that I'm going to create a problem in the locker room because he feels he should be the starter, that would not be a good fit. It needs to be a guy who understands his role and could fit our team and be ready to go at a moment's notice."
Cassel has been in both situations before. He started his career as a backup to Tom Brady with the New England Patriots. In his first three years, he played in 14 games, starting none, and threw only 39 passes as the mop-up quarterback for a dynasty team. But when Brady was hurt in the opening game of 2008, it was Cassel's opportunity to prove he belonged in the league.
He ended with career highs in attempts (516), completions (327), completion percentage (63.4), yards (3,693) and average yards per completion (7.2).
It was enough to get him a full-time starting gig with the Kansas City Chiefs the following year and he started 15 games each in 2009 and 2010. His first season turned out to be pretty average, throwing the same number of touchdowns as interceptions (16) and fumbling the ball 14 times. However, 2010 proved to be a rebound year. He threw 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions and fumbled only three times on his way to a 3,116-yard season.
After that, it started to fall apart in Kansas City – for Cassel and the Chiefs in general. He started a combined 17 games over the last two seasons and threw 16 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, lowlighted by being benched in favor of Brady Quinn last year.
The Chiefs reportedly tried to trade Cassel before giving him his release Thursday. The Vikings pounced at the opportunity to bring him in – as long as it was clear he would be Ponder's backup.
"They conveyed exactly that, that Christian obviously had a great year last year, they went 10-6, and that he is their starting quarterback and that they were looking to bring somebody in with experience and somebody that will come in and basically be somebody who can step in if need be," Cassel said. "The fact of the matter is, again, that Christian is the starting quarterback. I think we'll have a great room. I'm there to add value, there to help him out in whatever capacity that is and go from there.
"… I'm a guy that's going to come and work hard and give you my all no matter what role I'm in. My number one goal is to win games. For me, as a backup quarterback, is to, in whatever capacity I can, is to help the team get better and to win games. That's what I'm going to do. Through me résumé and through my last eight years, I've worked hard to build the reputation and I'll continue to do that."
Cassel has thrown with Ponder previously, during offseason workouts in Los Angeles, and talked to him on the phone during his visit to Minnesota.
"We were able to call each other and talk, and talk a little about my excitement to join the team and be part of the group," Cassel said. "And also that we're going to have a lot of fun this year."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
New Vikings QB Cassel knows his role
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