Matt Cassel will start the 2012 season as the starting QB for the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s a guarantee.
But will he finish the season on the field or on the bench?
Before the you reach for your torches and pitchforks, please understand that I fully support Matt Cassel. He is absolutely the best option to start the season at QB for the Chiefs. He’s done more as an NFL QB in one season than Brady Quinn* and Ricky Stanzi combined.
*Though it should be noted that the one time Cassel met Quinn, Quinn came out on top.
The question with Cassel is can he rise with the talent around him?
He’s done it before. He led a very talented New England Patriots team to an 11-5 record and a less talented Chiefs team to a 10-5 record in 2010. He’s probably not a QB that can put his team on his back as is evident in his performances in 2009 in 2011.
But even in Cassel’s best seasons, the questions lingered. The 2008 Pats and 2010 Chiefs each had very easy schedules and Cassel performed poorly against quality competition.
The problem facing the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs will be whether or not, at some juncture, Cassel will become a liability.
On paper, this Chiefs team has enough talent to compete with just about any team in the league. They should have a very solid offensive line and a very dangerous passing attack. The WR core is loaded with talent, speed and size. The defense will feature perhaps one of the leagues best units. If everyone else on the team plays up to expectations, the Chiefs will be good enough to get the job done most weeks.
But what if they don’t? What if the Chiefs are playing well but start falling short because of the mistakes or limitations of their QB? An overthrow here, a bad interception there and the natives might start to grow restless. If KC is inconsistent early and loses some contests they should have won, Romeo Crennel could have a very difficult decision to make.
Crennel has dealt with a QB controversy before as a head coach and it did not turn out well. He is likely going to want to avoid a repeat in Kansas City at all costs. That means a decision to bench Cassel will probably not be made on a whim. It will have to be evident to everyone that there are no other factors at play and that it is Cassel that is holding the team back. Benching Cassel and turning the keys over to Brady Quinn or Ricky Stanzi would be final. Save injury, Crennel and Pioli would have to stick with the new guy come hell or high water.
Behind Cassel the Chiefs have some interesting options. Quinn is the experienced veteran and Stanzi is very green with high upside. Scott Pioli has gone on the record as saying that he believes Stanzi can develop into an NFL starter.
Should Cassel play well and go down to injury for a game or two, his replacement will likely be Quinn. The Chiefs will want the most experience signal caller on the field if they need backup help in the middle of a playoff race. Quinn is an excellent game-manager option to come in and keep the team on track while it awaits the return of Cassel.
If, however, Cassel finds himself on the bench as a result of poor play, the Chiefs should almost certainly roll with Stanzi, unless the second-year QB just simply isn’t developing. Given his track record, Quinn is unlikely to develop into an NFL starter. Stanzi is the wildcard. If the Chiefs believe in him and the benching of Cassel is final, Stanzi has to be the choice. Like Tom Brady in New England, Stanzi would have the chance to step in and play for a potential Super Bowl contender. He’d have excellent protection and support. He’d be in the ideal position for success.
Should Stanzi step in and fail, the Chiefs would still benefit from knowing that their course forward is clear. A QB would truly be the #1 priority for the offseason and nobody in the organization would have any delusions that Brady Quinn is the answer.
What can’t happen in 2012 is Tyler Palko 2.0. The 2011 Chiefs wasted a chance to evaluate Stanzi in favor of playing a guy that didn’t even belong on an NFL roster. Perhaps Stanzi wasn’t ready and there is always the chance that starting him too early would have stunted his development. The problem is, we’ll never know because of Todd Haley’s decision to leave Stanzi on the sideline despite downright atrocious play from Palko.
The Chiefs have to find out about Cassel this season and if they have the opportunity to find out about Stanzi, all the better.
Scott Pioli has set the table for Cassel to succeed in 2012. There isn’t a whole lot more he could have given him. Short of another snakebit season, the Chiefs should win at least 10 games. If at any point it becomes clear that Cassel can’t get the job done, the Chiefs have to pull the trigger on Stanzi and end the Cassel experiment once and for all. They owe it to their fans. The Chiefs are too talented to bang their heads against the wall for a whole season with a mediocre QB and they are too talented to enter another offseason with questions lingering at their most important position.
All that being said, KC’s best-case scenario is a season in which Cassel succeeds.
What do you think Addicts? We all know who will start the season at QB. Who will finish it?