Just as Toby Gerhart brightened his light on the free agent radar of scouting staffs from other teams over the past month, Cassel's performance against Eagles Sunday put him in the driver's seat.
If the "gives us the best chance to win" mantra maintains, the numbers speak for themselves. When Cassel topped 300 yards Sunday, the analytical minds immediately logged on to ask the question, "When was the last time the Vikings had a 300-yard passing game?"
It had been since Oct. 14, 2012 – two Thanksgivings had come and gone – since Christian Ponder threw for 300 yards. As happens with the analytical, it begs the question of a basis for a QB comparison.
The control group is Ponder. From the time he took the field in relief of Donovan McNabb, a player who may have kicked out the legs of the Tripod of Authority and given Rick Spielman roster autonomy, Ponder was "his guy." From that moment, a career premier at Chicago, every game Ponder has played has been as a starter. The final 10 games of his rookie season. All 16 last year. The nine games he has played this season.
For his career, Ponder has played in 35 games. He has started the last 34 of them. That is enough of a body of work to make an assessment. Seeing as Josh Freeman's singular in-game assessment and dozens of practice performances have apparently taken him out of the equation, the comparisons of Cassel's minimal body of work (five games, four starts) is all there is to work with.
Here's what the stat geeks came up with:
How many times in his 34 starts has Ponder thrown for 241 yards or more? Six times. How many times has he thrown for less than 200 yards? Twenty times. For the purpose of comparison, how many times has he thrown for 150 yards or less in his 34 career starts? Thirteen times, an average of almost two of every five games.
Where the rub for the Vikings comes is that the option on the second year of Cassel's contract is in his hands. If he wants to opt out, he can. His value on the open market will likely be solid. All you need is two teams to create a bidding war and there are plenty of teams that would consider Cassel as a better Plan B than what they currently have in place.
With the Vikings, especially if they invest their first-round pick in a quarterback, Cassel could be the presumptive starter until it is deemed the youngster is ready.
He's done nothing to disprove the notion that he was a solid free agent signing. The only question should be why the Vikings gave Cassel's agent the ability to opt out of the option year.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.