Ask any NFL fan on the planet which player on the Kansas City Chiefs has the most pressure to produce in 2012 and you will get the same answer. Matt Cassel. There is no player more debated, no player more hated, and no player more crucial to a Kansas City playoff run in 2012.
Let me start by saying that I’m not a Matt Cassel homer (at least not any more). In fact, when it was announced that he was done for the year after week 10 last season, I did a post stating that Matt Cassel should never start another game in KC. However, after KC finished 7-9, putting them out of position to draft a franchise QB, and Peyton Manning chose the Broncos, the Chiefs had no choice but to go with Cassel again in 2012.
Some fans still have hope for Cassel.
Some fans have no hope for the Chiefs as long as Cassel is the QB.
A few weeks back I did another piece detailing how teams with a top 10 run game and a top 10 defense have good luck making and winning in the playoffs despite average and even poor QB play. My goal with that post was to convince people that even if they didn’t believe in Cassel that they should still be excited for the upcoming season.
This time I’m going a step farther. Even if you don’t believe that Cassel is a good QB, there is reason to believe he will put up very good numbers in 2012.
The reason for this is that Matt Cassel is a chameleon.
What I mean by that is that Cassel tends to take on the appearance of the team around him. Surround him with a good team and he looks pretty good. Surround him with Bobby Wades and Barry Richardsons and he looks pretty bad. Now, a true franchise QB is able to win without elite talent. Look at Peyton Manning, he won 10 or more games consistently in Indy and then when he went dow,n they were the worst team in football. Matt Cassel will never be that guy, but let’s look at the numbers he has put up when he’s put in a good situation.
What I’ve done this week is look at how the play of the rest of the team seems to affect Cassel’s performance. When Cassel first got here, it was easy to just look at his WR talent as the difference. In NE, he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker and when he got to KC he had Dwayne Bowe and some bums off the street. It’s also been popular to put the emphasis on who is calling the plays for Cassel. When Josh McDaniels and Charlie Weis were calling plays he did well and when Todd Haley and Bill Muir were calling plays he looked bad. Now even though I think those things do obviously make an impact, I think there is more to the story. Let’s look at the numbers.
Here are Cassel’s numbers in his four seasons as a starting QB.
59 percent completion percentage
74 TDs to 43 INTs
82.2 average QB rating
Pretty average, huh?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Cassel has had two very good seasons (2008 and 2010) and two not so good seasons (2009 and 2011). Here’s the numbers for those seasons.
2008 and 2010
61 percent completion percentage
48 TDs to 18 INTs
91.2 average QB rating
2009 and 2011
56.6 percent completion percentage
26 TDs to 25 INTs
73.3 average QB rating
That’s a pretty big difference. It would be easy to chalk this up to Cassel just being inconsistent, but when you look at the other team numbers in those seasons there are definitely some parallels. Before we get into the numbers let me clarify the numbers for last season. To be as accurate as possible I went through the game stats for the nine games Cassel played in 2011 and averaged them out instead of using the averages for the entire season. So the final 7 games don’t factor into the averages for last season.
First, let’s look at the run game.
In 2008 the Patriots had the #6 run game at 142.2 yards/game.
In 2010 the Chiefs had the #1 run game at 164.2 yards/game.
That’s an average of 153.2 yards/game for his two successful seasons.
In 2009 the Chiefs had the #11 run game at 120.6 yards/game.
In 2011 the Chiefs were averaging 124.4 yards/game (that would of ranked #11).
That’s an average of 122 yards/game in his two poor seasons.
That’s a difference of 31.2 rushing yards/game between his good seasons and poor ones.
Now let’s look at the defenses.
In 2008 NE ranked #10 in yards allowed (309 yards/game), #8 in points allowed (19.3 points/game), and #19 in yards allowed per play (5.4).
In 2010 KC ranked #14 in yards allowed (330.2 yards/game), #11 in points allowed (20.4 points/game), and #12 in yards allowed per play (5.1).
That’s an average of 319.6 yards/game, 19.85 points/game, and 5.25 yards/play allowed.
In 2009 KC ranked #30 in yards allowed (388.2 yards/game), #29 in points allowed (26.4 points/game), and #30 in yards allowed per play (5.8).
In the first 9 games of 2011 KC gave up an average of 364.3 yards/game (would have ranked 23rd), 24.2 points/game (would have ranked 23rd), and 5.9 yards per play (would have ranked 28th).
That’s an average of 379.6 yards/game, 25.6 points/game, and 5.84 yards/play allowed.
So in Cassel’s good seasons, his defenses gave up almost 60 less yards/game, 5.75 less points/game, and about 0.6 less yards per play.
What this shows is that when the team around Cassel is producing at a high level and the pressure isn’t all on him to win the game, Cassel thrives. When the rest of the team is struggling and Cassel has to go out and carry the team, he fizzles. Is that what you want in your QB? No, not ideally. However, if you believe that the Chiefs’ run game and defense should be good next year, then you have to admit that Cassel is likely to play well.
I think you can make a case that next year KC could field the best run game that Cassel has had to date. KC was averaging 124.4 yards/game with Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle, and Barry Richardson at RT. This year those three will be replaced with Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, and Eric Winston. That bodes well for Matt Cassel.
As I stated before when Cassel went out last season the Chiefs defense was giving up 364.3 yards/game, 24.2 points/game, and 5.9 yards/play. However, the defense really started clicking in the second half of the season where they averaged 295.9 yards/game, 17.1 points/game, and 4.9 yards/play. If the Chiefs defense is able to average those numbers in 2012 it would also be the best defense Cassel has had to date.
So as the offseason and training camp go by, will I be watching to see how the WR core is looking? Yes. Do I think it’s important that Brian Daboll’s offensive system is successful? Of course. But I think history has shown that those aren’t the only factors that will have a dramatic impact on Matt Cassel’s success. The good news is that those “other factors” are all looking good for next season.
That is why I think Matt “The Chameleon” Cassel will thrive in 2012.
So what do you think, Addicts? Will Cassel look good again in 2012? Do you think there is a direct correlation between how the rest of the team plays and how Cassel performs? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!