Let's Do The Matt Cassel Thing Again

One of my recurring criticisms of Matt Cassel over the course of his tenure as a Kansas City Chief has been his propensity to choke in the clutch.  You cannot win a Super Bowl with a quarterback who cannot play his best in the clutch.  That’s not even negotiable.

I walloped him in my recap of the first quarter of the season, and many of you walloped me back.  My primary complaint, among others, was that Cassel has never had a game-winning drive in his time as a Chief (and no, the Buffalo Bills game from 2010 doesn’t count — he had six drives that could have won that game, and the fact that he finally succeeded on the sixth drive means little to me).

Well, now that Cassel didn’t just have a game-winning drive, but brought this team back from way down in a wonderful comeback victory against the Colts, what criticisms are now invalid, and which ones persist?  Keep in mind that this is the most important question of the entire franchise.  This team cannot win a Super Bowl if its quarterback cannot lead it to victory.  Period.

My opinion, as I have written before, is that despite Cassel’s solid performance against the Colts, he is not the future of this team, and the Colts game proves very little to the contrary.  Matt Cassel is not a part to our Super Bowl puzzle.

Let’s do this thing.  After the jump.

There are several reasons why Cassel’s game-winning work against the Colts should not be considered a game changer for the QB:

The opponent truly did suck.  Let’s not ignore the fact that Matt Cassel has been credited with a resurgence against two teams who were a combined 0-7 when we played them.  I will credit Cassel fully against the Vikings, because that was a genuinely tough defense, but the Colts have arguably the most porous and pathetic defense in the NFL save for their two defensive ends, who are useless if the team’s not playing with a lead.  (Quick, what was the first name of the corner guarding Bowe for most of the game?  Exactly.)

The run game was on.  It’s no coincidence that this game has looked the best for Cassel as it was by far the best game the Chiefs have had on the ground.  All of 2010, this was a complaint of Cassel; if the run game was on, so was Cassel.  Without a decent run game, there’s little to nothing he can do on his own.  He cannot carry a team to victory unless that team can gear up a run game.   That made 2010 a match made in heaven for the Chiefs, as the Chiefs sported the best run game in the NFL and Cassel ascended to Pro Bowl heights.  But in 2011, with Charles out and few options left, Cassel has struggled.

Bowe was otherworldly.  I’ve already splooged written about this, but Cassel was also the beneficiary of one of the finest performances of a wide receiver we’ve seen in a Chiefs uniform, ever.  Bowe was catching everything in orbit, and at least a pair of amazing plays by the receiver boosted Cassel’s numbers.  Not that I’m complaining…

This was one game.  We’ve seen this far too often from Matt Cassel; a series of disappointing performances rectified by one or two resurgent performances.  Cassel can provide your team some great spot work, but too often he is prone to lulls and slumps where his production and on-field decision making are wanting.  I’m not crowning Cassel after one fantastic comeback performance.

Now, there are reasons the Colts game could provide us a spot of hope:

Accuracy.  Cassel finished the game 21 of 29.  Even in the better parts of his Pro Bowl year in 2010, Cassel struggled with accuracy if the receiver wasn’t Dwayne Bowe or Tony Moeaki, players who can pluck the ball out of the stratosphere.  Cassel seems to finally be developing the ability to lay the ball in where it needs to be when there’s a pass rush enveloping him.  This is something necessary that must continue for this team to succeed.

Spreading the ball around.  Cassel is perhaps unfairly criticized for focusing too much on two receivers (and sometimes just one) to the exclusion of all others.  This isn’t always fair, because for most of his tenure, he’s only had one decent receiver.  With some more talent downfield (Breaston, in particular), he’s starting to mix the ball up with Breaston, WR Keary Colbert, and Leonard Pope.

Multiple reads.  I’ve hammered Cassel for years now that he doesn’t have the patience or the discipline to go through multiple reads before resorting to a check down receiver.  It’s often one look… then check down.  Not against Indy, who has a formidable pass rush.  He was able to scope out at least two reads on most plays, and might have snuck in a third there a time or two.  We must have more improvement here, like we did against the Colts.

That said… despite these hints of hope, we simply can’t return to the well over and over again to Cassel and expect different results.  Unless he plays out of his mind for the rest of the season at least on par with what we saw against the Colts, we can’t stick with Cassel for yet another season.

This was, at the end of the day, just a game.  And we’ve already discussed that Cassel wasn’t going to suck all  season.  He was always going to suck for just part of the season, and play decently enough for the rest of the season, and even have an outstanding game or two, thus complicating the decision of whether we should keep him.

No excuses.  The best QBs in the game (Brady, Rodgers, Brees) have to win with either nonexistent or drastically inconsistent run games.  They also have to beat the best defenses.  And as far as coaching/play calling goes, if the coaching staff is the reason we haven’t maximized the talent in Cassel, well then, them’s the cards.  You drop him, and move on to someone they can or will maximize.

Listen, if you want the best for this team, you have to be sober in your analysis, even after last Sunday’s emotional victory.  We knew back in Week 2 that standing for dumping Cassel at the end of the year would be a progressively unpopular decision as he puts together a few decent-to-good performances.  Assuming Cassel doesn’t prove us all wrong by lighting up the record books over the next few weeks, now is the time to fortify your backbone.

Now is the time to fortify your backbone.

If anybody asks you, a supposed “hater” of Matt Cassel the quarterback, what he needs to do to win you over, your answer needs to be the following:

To win my support for him keeping his job after 2011, Matt Cassel needs to perform for the rest of 2011 at a Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees level of performance.  Because if your quarterback does not have the ability to put up great games with an occasionally faltering run game and against any and all opponents, then we’re not in the Super Bowl hunt, and there’s no point to continuing the unsatisfying destination of a first round blowout.  Super Bowl QB, or bust.  No excuses, ever.

Copy and paste it, Addicts.  Post it anywhere and everywhere.

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