What. A. Game last week.
All of AA’s columnists have done a great job documenting the fantastic things we saw in that game: A.) The Chiefs’ sudden rise from the grave B.) Their utter trouncing of the dirtiest, most classless team in the league and C.) Said team’s laughably inept offensive performance.
Now, while point C in some ways detracts from points A and B, it is what I want to focus on, because it is the most important in the long term.
Although Cassel looked far from impressive in that game and the defense did a lot of the work for the Zombie Chiefs, after doing some research, I’ve become a much bigger fan of Zombie Cassel and his insatiable appetite for comeback brains. So much so, that it has made me feel a lot better about that trade that brought him here, especially because it makes the Carson Palmer trade look like a Jedi Ronin Secret Suicide attack.
Read my lips: the Raiders are doomed. Check out why after the break.
Look, I like Matt Cassel. He obviously been the most productive quarterback we’ve had since Trent Green’s prime years and as long as the running game is clicking, the Cassel-Bowe connection is one of the most dangerous in the league. He’s also one tough cookie and you can’t ask for much better leadership qualities.
Still, I think an objective assessment of him is one as a middle-of-the-road quarterback. He’s had chances to distinguish himself as a top 10 QB by putting the game on his back and winning late in games when the running game was suffering. In nearly all of these situations he hasn’t gotten it done. One important exception was his insane 4 TD, 138.9 passer rating performance against the Colts in Week 5 this year. However, even then, you have to take those stats with a grain of salt as they were made against what is arguably the worst team in the NFL.
Therefore, until he proves himself otherwise, I have no qualms about viewing him as the 15th-or-so best quarterback in the league. And thus, I think he proves a good stick of measure for the quality of other quarterbacks in the league – in particular, the newest comer to the AFC West, Carson Palmer.
How do Cassel and Palmer, former teammates and roommates at USC, stack up?
First-overall-pick Palmer lit the league on fire in his first three years with 78 TDs and nearly 10,000 passing yards. In 2005, he had a Manning-like 101.1 passer rating for the season. Then, he was bedeviled by the traditionally poor Bengals management and injuries to his elbow and knee. A few years later, Cassel came off the bench in New England and threw for 21 TDs and (still) career-high 3,693 yards.
From this point, their careers have taken drastically different paths. As we all know, Cassel was traded to KC for a high second-rounder along with grizzled veteran LB Mike Vrabel. Palmer has now ended up on Cassel’s rival team for either two first-rounds or a first- and a second-round pick. And, if any more evidence is needed that Oakland is managed by a group of drunken teenagers, these numbers should finish it off.
Let’s just forget last game, for statistical purposes. Palmer apparently hadn’t even thrown to his Oakland receivers in pads before that game and never was planning on going into the game. So, I’ll give him a break for being put into an impossible situation.
But before last week, the Raiders’ savior, Carson Palmer, had thrown 57 interceptions in his previous 52 starts. Cassel had 41 INT’s in his 65 total career starts and his stats going into the game were 8 TD 5 INT. Not great, but not that bad, considering how putrid the Chiefs’ offense was in the first two weeks of the season.
Furthermore, Cassel’s season passer rating going into the game (89.7) is higher than the rating Palmer has put up for the last four seasons, and is also higher than Palmer’s career passer rating.
Thus, if Cassel is a mediocre quarterback, then Palmer is decidedly a bad one. Cassel is also three years younger, and does not have anything closely resembling the injury history of glass-limbs Palmer.
Outisde of AA, I am also the designated Chiefs SuperFan for the ESPN Football Today podcast, and in an argument with the Raiders SuperFan, the best he could come up with in response to these statistics was that “The RAIDS have the league’s best RB. He just needs to be respectable, so that you can’t stack the box.” (-To which I responded of course that McFadden (currently injured) is not the league’s best RB, that honor belongs to a player on the Chiefs’ roster who is currently on IR.)
So, by all accounts, we should all be rejoicing that the Raiders have just bought themselves a “reasonable” quarterback in exchange for their entire future. In fact, even if Palmer plays pretty well, they’ve still screwed themselves for the medium-term.
Here is the best-case scenario for the Raiders: Palmer takes them to the playoffs and wins a couple of games this year. Their team isn’t bad, but they’re not a Super Bowl team — they’ve proven that when they’ve gone toe-to-toe with teams like the Patriots. So OK, maybe they make it to the AFC Championship and get brushed aside by New England or Baltimore. Then what? They have one year with basically no draft (not counting compensatory picks, their first pick will be in the 5th round in 2012). Two full years with no 1st round pick, and by the end of that they have a quarterback who has a long history of injury and who will be 34 by the end of the 2013 regular season.
They then have no quality young players, no quarterback, no future. Maybe they’ve gotten themselves a Lombardi trophy during that stint, but I would bet the farm they don’t. They have no cap room and hardly any draft picks for the next two years meaning right now is the best they are going to be talent-wise, as they essentially have no ammunition to grab talent for the next two years. Is this a Super Bowl team?
Wrap your head around this fact: Due to trades and the supplemental draft, three of their top four picks in the next draft are quarterbacks currently on the roster – 1st pick Carson Palmer, 3rd (currently suspended total project QB) Terrelle Pryor, 4th Jason Campbell, who is currently in a contract year and on IR. It’s inconceivable that Campbell, who has starting quality talent, would resign or be resigned by Oakland last year.
Thus, they’ve essentially thrown a year’s-worth of draft picks to fill a position with a bad quarterback.
All of this not only makes the controversial Cassel trade look a whole hell of a lot smarter, but we can all take solace in the fact that as the Chiefs continue to toughen up through a rough season, the Raiders will be joining the Broncos as a team to beat up on in division games for the next several years.
There are still a lot of hard games to play in this season, but imagine this: If the Chiefs can upset the suddenly accident-prone Chargers at home this week and can roll the awful Dolphins and Broncos in subsequent weeks, we will be 6-3. After that, the schedule gets very difficult, but it’s still very realistic to finish 8-8 or 9-7. By then, Kansas City, the team with the lowest cap number in the NFL, will have a corps of young players who have learned how to play through adversity and will know what to do to get those tough, close wins.
We’ll have plenty of money to spend, and we’ll be getting back Charles, Moeaki and Berry. Due to their self-inflicted wounds, the Raiders, by weakening themselves, have made the AFC West a division primed to be dominated by what will be a scary Chiefs team in 2012.
I, for one, can’t wait.