The last few days have been full of euphoric celebrations after another win with accolades generously being doled out for the new Kansas City Chiefs. As fans, we should enjoy it. Multiple polls have identified the Chiefs as the most surprising undefeated team. While there were many aspects of the latest win which pleasantly stunned this fan, the ordinary play of Matt Cassel was not one of them.
The better production of Cassel last Sunday was encouraging but contrary to what many articles have suggested, this Cassel-critic was not completely silenced. In my mind, he has some work to do to show he’s a quarterback who could lead his team to a championship – in due time.
More after the jump:
Yes, Cassel’s single game passer rating of 111.6 was impressive. It catapulted him from almost last in the NFL to a tie for 19th overall. With a 75.4 rating, he’s currently on the same level as Seattle’s quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. That’s no longer bad, but it’s not exactly good. But, why the continued doubts? Frankly, he had some serious help achieving that rating. Of his 250 total passing yards that day, a chunk consisting of 94 yards came in just three touchdown plays.
The first to come to his aid was Kansas City’s self-proclaimed Offensive Weapon, Dexter McCluster. He turned a 6-yard pass into a 31-yard touchdown with his speed and elusiveness. That’s going to make any quarterback look good.
Next to help out Cassel was his new best friend, Charlie Weis. Not only did Weis call an excellent game to dissect a historically stingy defense, it was clear that part of his objective was to help out his struggling quarterback. Case in point: the brilliant trick play which resulted in a 45-yard touchdown to Dwayne Bowe. It was a good pass, but Bowe was wide open, and Cassel had the time – thanks to the duped defense of the 49′ers.
The third touchdown pass accounted for another 18 yards, and was made possible only by an amazing one-handed grab from the Chiefs rookie tight end, Tony Moeaki. Cassel overthrew his new playmaker, but Moeaki somehow went up and pulled it down. That was on third down, so without that spectacular catch, the Chiefs probably line up for a field goal.
Take away these three plays and Cassel is left with 156 yards and one interception. That would give him the passer rating of 50.8, which is nearly the same rating he had for each of the first two games. That’s including the 57 receiving yards which Jamaal Charles contributed out of the backfield. Granted, many great quarterbacks in the NFL have players contribute to their numbers in similar ways, but if this is all Cassel does, it’s not much of a statement of his personal quarterback play.
Football is a team sport. A good offensive coordinator should help his quarterback with plays catered to the strengths of the entire team. On a good team, receivers will make plays on balls which shouldn’t be caught, and they will turn short gains into touchdowns from time to time. The way the Chiefs are working together is electrifying, but it doesn’t mean Cassel has arrived. One game of numbers produced in this way does not indicate he’s turned the corner, just yet. He’s bound to develop into a good quarterback at some point in the season. He’s just not there yet. One game of dumping the ball off to teammates who in turn make a few outstanding plays, doesn’t make him a great quarterback. He needs to keep improving into a good one.
All that really matters is how the Chiefs leadership perceives Cassel. After the game Sunday, Todd Haley talked about trying to convey a consistent message of winning to a team which isn’t used to it yet. “I’m not going to waiver,” said Haley, “and I know this quarterback…why I like him so much, ’cause I know he’s not going to waiver and he’s not going to crack.” That speaks volumes about Cassel and it quiets my questions down to a whisper, but hardly silences them.
Last week’s game should provide Cassel with the needed confidence to keep getting better. That’s the message Haley keeps pounding, and that’s all Chiefs fans should expect of their team each week. While it’s thrilling to see the Chiefs new offense increase its production as a whole, wouldn’t we all like to see the quarterback make a few more plays like his teammates are doing? Last Sunday, he gave his team more chances to make plays. That’s an improvement over the first two weeks, and I’ll take it…for now.