Eight Chiefs players gathered today for a throwing session at a Kansas City area high school. There was no doubt about the one in charge.
Matt Cassel, practicing in sunglasses and a ball cap turned backward, wasn’t necessarily dressed for the part. But he was the one calling out orders, giving all the play calls, directing traffic. Practice started when he arrived and concluded when he left.
“This,” wide receiver Jeremy Horne said, stating the obvious, “is Matt’s deal.”
It’s an intriguing development that begs the question that has haunted this fanbase for two years: who is Matt Cassel?
Admit it: despite the fact the guy has given two seasons’ worth of incredibly hard work to this franchise, and has two seasons worth of game tape in a Chiefs helmet, we still know pretty much next to nothing about Kansas City Chiefs’ QB Matt Cassel.
Well, we know the facts. That he’s got Eagles-scout character. That he’s a hard worker. That he’s married to a gorgeous volleyballer he met at USC. That she has a pair of the best legs God hath created. She’s also got a pretty shy personality on camera and possesses a cute, confident half-laugh when something amusing’s been said. She’s also a brunette.
Er, I feel like I’m fixating too much on the girl.
But maybe that’s the point. (That, and she’s really amazing.) I felt from approximately 30 seconds of interview time, I know more about her than I do about him.
Those few seconds of NFL video following the Seahawks victory gave us a small window into the Matt Cassel we don’t know. We know what he is, but we don’t know what he’s like. Which isn’t important to some, I understand. I just find that I have a greater emotional connection to the outcome of games when I have a greater connection to the players.
It’s easy to do that with Trent Green. Tyler Thigpen. Even Brodie Croyle. But Matt Cassel is a blank slate.
Some people on ChiefsPlanet, where I hail from, compare Matt Cassel’s always-vacant expression with Woody from the Toy Story series. I’ve long believed that Cassel is just as vacant with personality as he is in expression. His interviews have been among the worst of any QB in Chiefs history.
But time and time again, the heart of this guy comes through. It comes through in behind-the-scenes video. It comes through in rare moments like these, when he takes initiative to keep the chemistry fresh.
My attempt to nail down Cassel’s personality, is as follows:
He is a beta-male by nature. He does not feel compelled to “own” the room when he walks into it, and he lacks the presence to do so naturally. Part of that is because he’s been a lifelong backup, a fact that is never far from anybody’s mind, and something that’s ingrained into how he carries himself personally.
Separated from the football field, he second guesses himself frequently. He plays it safe, socially. His true comfort zone is limited to maybe a half dozen people that are closest to him. For the rest of his personhood outside of that true comfort zone, he plays a very wooden role to get by. He tries to be the very essence of “inoffensive.”
But this changes on the field. He becomes, by all accounts, an alpha.
His play feeds his confidence which brings him out of that shell he so often ensconces himself in, particularly when he knows he’s playing well. Everything, from his body language to his facial expressions to his sense of humor, comes alive when he’s Matt Cassel, Quarterback.
When the game ends, he coils back into Matt Cassel, Person. The adrenaline-fueled facade subsides. And that’s when the microphones are placed in front of him, reporters ask their questions, and the obtuse, boring-as-hell answers light up the newspapers the next morning. And we go back to wondering, who the hell is this guy.
Well this is my best estimate at an answer.
And as much as I obsessively follow a team that is led by him, I still can’t be certain.