How Cassel Recovers

The way forward for Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel is murky and riddled with tough opponents, angry fans, and a bitchy local media.  His teammates are falling like daisies around him, thinning out an offensive line that’s supposed to protect, and a receiver corps that’s supposed to help.  His coaches are falling asleep during games.  And even the elegant, classy beauty of his wife won’t stop random jerkwads from projecting a QB being taken by KC in next year’s draft.

We here at Arrowhead Addict feel for you, Matt.  We’re not bad peeps.  And you’re not a bad quarterback.

But this whole ship needs to be righted, we all agree on that score.  And while I wish I had the time, energy, and expertise to dispense wisdom for an entire team’s worth of struggling players and coaches, it all starts at a quarterback gone wrong. It’s the heart of the football team, and it’s the biggest troubling matter of a ton.  Here are a few ideas to consider:

Challenge coverage, don’t surrender to it.

I don’t know how on-the-dot I am with this assessment, but it recurringly seems, after two seasons as Chiefs QB, that Cassel’s favorite route is the crossing route.  Which is fine and everything, but the crossing route is just one route, and there’s only so many route progressions it can go through.  I think one of the reasons it’s so popular is because it’s relatively difficult to cover without throwing several members of the defense at it, and it provides a pretty easy route for Cassel to read.

All other routes, especially deep routes and routes to the outside, are more complicated and harder to hit because coverage can be tighter.  If a wide receiver is anything less than wide freaking open, Cassel holds the ball and gets sacked.  He doesn’t challenge coverage very often.  He just refuses to take that risk.

A great QB and a good offense needs to challenge coverage.  We can’t let a corner win the battle just because he’s in the right place — make the throw you need to make and force the corner to do more than position himself.

Force democracy into the play calling.

Let’s face it, Cassel. You’re on your last legs if this season goes as the last three home games (Raiders ’10, Ravens ’10, and Bills ’11) have gone. You need to start acting with some urgency, and that starts with challenging play calls on the sidelines before and after drives.  This exact repetition happened back in ’07, when then-offensive coordinator Mike Solari continually called obscenely conservative game plans. Eventually, QB Damon Huard, RB Larry Johnson, and TE Tony Gonzalez rebelled on the field.  The game plan changed, and the Chiefs offense did more.

This feedback to the coaching staff is absolutely critical for a team to grow, but it doesn’t seem to come often, if at all, from you.  The time for being a beta male and allowing coaches to set the tone with zero input from yourself is over.  It is time to man up and make yourself be heard in these meeting rooms.  It’s one of the reasons we brought you in.

Many more suggestions after the jump.

Audible aggressively. 

You need to challenge defenses, and keeping them guessing and on their heels.  Audibles almost seem to be banned in the Matt Cassel offense, despite the good returns it earned us back in 2010.  You’re on the field, and you can hear what the defenders are saying, and how they’re gesturing, and where their eyes are moving.

We need more instances where you are reacting in real time, like the best offenses do. At this point, we continually seem to be adjusting the next series, which in the NFL is far too slow of a recovery time.

Commit to a faster rhythm.

Start a metronome in your head and run the offense to it.  The entire team is playing like it’s dead on its feet right now. You can force them out of that by pushing the rhythm. Force the team into huddles,  force the play calls to come faster, force the ball out of your hand sooner on pass plays. Milking the clock for time of possession has its benefits, but right now the bigger war the Chiefs are losing is a war of effort.

You can force the team to get aggressive by having to keep up with you. This is a time when your job in on the line. You must challenge everyone around you and stop merely leading by example.

Which plays into my next recommendation:

Challenge your teammates.  Don’t play down to their abilities; trust that they’ll do their job.

We know you don’t exactly have the 2007 New England Patriots surrounding you right now. Your run game is inconsistent, your blocking on the edge is sorry, and your WR corps might be worse this year with Breaston and Baldwin and Moeaki out with injury.

It doesn’t matter. Stop playing super conservatively because the talent around you isn’t living up to their end of the bargain! Try more rhythm passes even if you’re not sure Copper will free himself from his defender. Try throwing it over Pope’s shoulder even if you’re 50/50 on whether he can handle the pass.

We’re not winning this year. That’s fine. The important thing is for us to see what you’ve got. And when you handcuff yourself because you’re scared your teammates aren’t going to do their jobs, the whole offense suffers.

Protect yourself; throw the ball away.

 One problem with Cassel is that he doesn’t make decisions based on long-term goals so much as he does whatever he can eke out in any given micro-second of play on the field. Here’s the reality: we need Matt Cassel to play all season. Cassel is currently playing with a cracked rib, and is expected to suit up for another 15 games this year. We have no back-up quarterbacks capable of playing at an NFL level.

Therefore, Cassel has a responsibility to the rest of this franchise to protect himself in all reasonable ways. I’m not talking about running off screaming like a little girl once the defense intercepts him so he doesn’t get hit.  I am, however, talking about throwing the ball out of bounds to stall the defense off and save him a hit.

He got injured in the first place by stupidly taking a sack instead of throwing the ball away. When you don’t mitigate the damage a defense is doing to you, you hurt the team, and you screw the franchise by not protecting yourself.

Throw specifically past your passrushers.

You can also slow down a pass rush by attacking the space directly behind a rushing defender. Much like you can slow down a pass rusher by running at him, you can also slow him down by forcing him to consider your passing right over his head.

Back-up QB Tyler Palko learned this simple lesson in the preseason and ended up acing the two-minute drill against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens kept bringing a blitz every single pass play, so Palko started attacking the vacated space that the defender blitzed from for a long drive and touchdown.

Own the locker room. 

This whole franchise needs a shot of adrenaline, and players shouldn’t have to wait for Thomas Jones. They should be getting direction from their franchise quarterback and the de facto leader of their team. We saw this Matt Cassel, the alpha male, in the offseason as you held numerous workouts for the players. He threw the entire event together and coached on the field as he played. He was the franchise in that moment.

Since the preseason began, he has shrunk back into his beta male shell. To paraphrase Gunther Cunningham, players need as much motivation now as they did back in high school. And they need someone they respect to kick their asses from time to time. Coaches get tuned out, but you can’t tune out the guy who’s in charge of feeding you the ball.

Take more pictures with your wife, Lauren.

Seriously, Google turns up close to nothing.  Help a brother out.

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