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Cassel said through it all, he never believed he was entitled to be the starter. He also indicated he would be willing to compete for the job if that’s what the Chiefs ask him to do.

“There’s competition every year,’’ said Cassel, who will turn 30 in May. “If you play this position, there’s always competition. You’re competing against yourself, you’re competing against somebody else. Whoever they bring in, you always compete and you always have to go out and try to get better.

Crennel had a 2-1 record as the interim coach with the Chiefs after replacing Todd Haley. Even with the brief lift in passion a coaching change usually creates, interim coaches typically make no mark because their players see them as lame ducks. Instead, Crennel’s Chiefs also took Oakland to overtime before losing and went to Denver, when the Tim Tebow vibe was at its most insistent, when the Broncos had to have the game, and turned Tebow’s passing game into a study in frustration.

“I don’t have Kyle Orton on this team because he is an unrestricted free agent,” Crennel said. “You can deal in hypothetical as much as we want, but the reality is that he is an unrestricted free agent, and what I have on this team is Matt Cassel and (backup) Ricky Stanzi.

“Matt Cassel has taken us to the playoffs and proven he can be a very good quarterback in this league. And so with what my choices are, then Matt Cassel is going to be the guy.”

The Chicago Bears have received permission to interview four candidates for their general manager job.

The team reported on its website Wednesday that it will interview Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery, New England Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht, San Diego Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye and New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross.

In 11 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Brian Waters never tasted playoff victory. And while the Patriots have had their own playoff struggles in recent seasons, Waters can sense a difference in the confidence as he prepares for his first playoff game with New England.

“I wouldn’t say [preparations have been any] different, just the fact that everybody knows how it’s do or die in the playoffs,” said Waters. “I think it’s different in the fact that the whole organization has a great sense of what it takes to get it done. That’s something that, here, you feel very comfortable in that the plan is a plan that’s been executed before. You just gotta fall in line and follow suit.”

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