Chiefs GM And QB: A Doomed Pre-Arranged Marriage

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Do you get the idea that the Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel couldn’t pull QB Matt Cassel from a game — even if he wanted to? If there ever was a time to pull Matt Cassel, wasn’t it in Sunday’s abysmal affair?

The Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has mandated that Cassel is his QB. Isn’t that supposed to be the coach’s call? Romeo has affirmed on Sunday that Matt is his guy — but I don’t buy it. Not for one minute.

What’s equally disturbing about Romeo Crennel’s comments are his statements about not knowing why the team played like they did. I can understand him saying that on Sunday, but he also said the same thing at his Monday press conference. If the head coach doesn’t know why his team played the way they played, it’s not a positive sign. Yes, anyone could see that the whole team played poorly but, the biggest problem starts with a Q and ends with a B and Crennel isn’t permitted to say so — because of the problem that starts with a G and ends with a M.

So, the most pressing situation for the Chiefs is the disturbing relationship between GM Scott Pioli and QB Matt Cassel and Pioli’s tabbing Cassel as his QB.

That kind of decision-making by “pre-arranged agreement” has turned the Chiefs organization rank — as in, odor. Like a lot of other pre-arranged marriages, this one has gone bad.

That’s right, something is rotten in Denmark and it’s somehow drifted across continents and oceans and all the way to the heartland. Well, maybe just from New England to K.C.. How far back this “pre-arrangement” goes is a question that now sickens me to think about — the idea of Bill Belichick leaning back in his chair and musing — between one of his “A Football Life” segments — about how he sucker-punched the Chiefs in a 2009 trade, that was— there is no other word—sickening.

It’s suspicious that the Chiefs’ current “marionette” coach, Crennel, came out before any questions were asked in the post game presser and stated,

I’m staying with the QB, and I stayed with him during the course of the game. And we’re going to stay with him going forward.

I don’t see Crennel as being that boldly pig headed on his own, which raises other questions. Why would he say that? In the interest of his quarterback — or in the interest of his GM?

Either way — many fans may be wondering just how bad Matt Cassel really is? I can tell you he’s not even average and that’s bad news for the rest of this season — but, if the Chiefs stick with him — it may not be so bad for seasons to come… because it improves their drafting position (maybe that’s why Crennel is sticking with him).

I’ve always been of the mindset that it’s not appropriate to cheer against your home team. Nothing has changed, but, I don’t see Brady Quinn as a viable option. Should the Chiefs give him a chance? I don’t see that in the cards.

It looks like the only way for Brady Quinn to get on the field will be for Cassel to get hurt.

So, how did we get here?

It’s a well-worn story that Scott Pioli brought Matt Cassel here with him from New England 3 1/2 years ago. It’s understandable — he has some loyalty to Matt and vice versa. However, it’s now crystal clear that Matt Cassel is not a QB to build a good team around. Is the Chiefs GM really close-minded to that fact? Has he become so complacent that he can’t see past the end of his own nose tackle? Has his brand of “loyalty” somehow blinded him to the reality that Romeo (and any coach) needs to coach by the idiom, next man up?

So, what is it that Pioli is unwilling to see?

That can only be answered by asking — how bad is Matt Cassel?

If you look at team stats, he doesn’t appear to rank at the bottom of the league in many individual categories. You have to consider all of the categories together to come to a wider understanding of just how bad he is. One thing must be considered first — he’s throwing to perhaps the best core of receivers the Chief organization has ever had. Also, if Dwayne Bowe continues to produce at his current pace he’ll end the year with 1,368 yards, 100 receptions, 12 TDs and a 13.7 yards per reception average. Not bad for a receiver who is having the ball thrown to him by a bottom 5 QB.

On a side note, I’m not sure Dwayne Bowe will want to sign a long term contract before next season if the Chiefs QB is going to be Matt Cassel. Sooner or later — a  player wants to win (see Gonzo).

Looking at stats alone won’t tell the tale of Matt Cassel on the field. I’ll get to the stats later. The following analysis helps to bring his abilities, or lack thereof, more into focus:

  • Poor decisions in the pocket. Inside breaking patterns require a three-step drop using bigger steps and an outward breaking pattern requires shorter steps because the ball has to get there faster — this is why Cassel was picked off in the first quarter in the Chargers game. This is called poor fundamentals. Kyle Orton was very good at throwing the out pattern with quick drop steps and a quick release.
  • Cassel telegraphs his intended target by staring down the receiver he’s going to throw to from the time he gets the snap from center. Safeties around the league must love him because there is no greater tell when it comes to showing your hand — meaning, which receiver you’re going to — than staring at them. The simple principle is to keep your helmet and eyes forward — not giving away where you’re going with the ball — until the very last instant.
  • Cassel is horribly and consistently inaccurate. Cassel rarely uses the “crossover-hitch-step-and-throw” motion allowing his body weight to come forward to help propel the ball. Cassel usually: drops back — waits — waits — winds up — and then throws. Because Cassel is not using this fundamental technique — he holds onto the ball too long and can’t establish a rhythm with his receivers (except for Bowe — who’s essentially the only reciever he consistently throws the ball to — over 3 1/4 years). Consequently, his sack ratio and INT ratio will be higher than an average or good QB.
  • The following are all signs of inaccuracy:
    • Letting his passes sail,
    • Over-throwing his receivers,
    • Under-throwing his receivers,
    • Throwing behind his intended receivers — placing their health in jeopardy.
  • Cassel throws less timing patterns but, instead waits for his receivers to come open. The reason for this is — he doesn’t rely upon his instincts to let the ball fly and trust that his receivers will be where they’re supposed to be. He should be able to do this with his eyes closed — not complete passes with his eyes closed but, get the timing with his receivers right.
  • Quarterbacking 101 includes — every pass is released above the shoulders and caught above the shoulders. For Cassel — this is rarely  executed and the receivers at the end of his equation suffer for it. Balls that are delivered at the waist or below changes their stride slowing them down or forcing his wide receiver’s bodies into contorted positions increasing the odds of an injury. Accuracy should not be an issue in his case because so many of the passes that Cassel is asked to throw are less than 10 yards away from him — either in the flat or right in front of him — in front of the first down marker.
  • Throwing late to receivers out of the backfield — setting them up for disaster — and a big hit for the opposition. Remember when Ed Reed plastered Dexter McCluster on a short route in the playoffs at the end of 2010?  That has happened too too many times since then, because he hasn’t adjusted, meaning he hasn’t learned from that mistake. In a game that is played with important plays being made in fractions of seconds. Cassel can be maddening to watch. Maddening — not Madden.
  • Rarely going through his progressions thereby limiting what can be accomplished on a given play. WR Jon Baldwin was wide open several times in the past game and Cassel went to his check down receiver instead — he should be known as Master Checkdown — because that’s all he seems to have mastered.

This last point is especially bothersome.

Bill Walsh, who mastered the West Coast offense with Joe Montana and Steve Young at the helm, once said that each play provides the quarterback with multiple ways to exploit a defense. With Cassel unable to take advantage of the Chiefs’ “best” options behind the line of scrimmage, every single other player on his offense is stifled as well. And, it makes the Chiefs offense barely one dimensional — and so much easier for defenses around the league to defend.

Did you notice a difference between the first series in the game against the Chargers — and the rest of the game from a play calling standpoint?

After Cassel “under throws” the ball to Dwayne Bowe and Eric Weddle easily steps in front for a pick — the whole game changed. The Chargers went up 10-0 and even the game plan appeared to change. Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was having Cassel attack down the field early. Not so much after that.

Would you place any responsibility for Jamaal Charles fumbling the ball on Matt Cassel? One could argue that since Cassel couldn’t hold up his end of the deal — others began pressing to see if they could make up for it. Am I making excuses for Charles? Maybe. Doesn’t it work both ways — you may ask? Perhaps. But, Charles is capable of holding up his end of things — the running game — even after fumbling twice, while Cassel never has had the consistent ability to execute a passing game. Please don’t cite the season he took over for Brady on the Patriots in 2008 or 2010 when he was a fill-in Pro Bowler. Those are both hollow accomplishments.

Personally, I received my degrees in the field of  education — but, I spent the first three and a half years of undergraduate work studying to be a coach. I can see these deficiencies in Matt Cassel with my limited background — but why can’t GM Scott Pioli see that Matt Cassel is not even an average QB?

After four games — Matt Cassel has a 70.4 quarterback rating. There are only three teams who have a ranking with a lower QBR than the Chiefs.

The current seasons’ QBR Bottom Feeder Four include:

29. 70.4 — KC Chiefs
30. 69.6 — NY Jets
31. 66.4 — Miami Dolphins
32. 60.4 — Cleveland Browns

Those QBs who have a worse QBR than Cassel include: an overrated fourth-year starter out of USC, Mark Sanchez; a rookie starter Ryan Tannehill; and another rookie starter Brandon Weeden.

So, let’s review: Matt Cassel is better than — a bad QB, a rookie QB, and another rookie QB.

Does excluding rookies more accurately reflect Matt Cassel’s true QBR position in the league? If you look at career QBR ratings of all quarterbacks in the league who have been starters for three years or more — his QBR ranking is virtually no different — placing him near the bottom of the league.

The current career bottom five QBRs with at least three years experience — look like this:

28. 81.5 — Matt Cassel
29. 77.5 — Alex Smith
30. 75.3 — Josh Johnson
31. 74.9 — Sam Bradford
32. 72.9 — Mark Sanchez

There are half a dozen quarterbacks starting in the NFL who were drafted this year or last — who either have a better QBR than Matt Cassel or a better upside. The Chiefs could have had a number of those quarterbacks.

Matt Cassel is not without his strengths. He is Mr. Likeability. He probably won “Most Likely to Marry the Homecoming Queen” award in high school. Yes, he’s a good guy but, you can’t make orange juice out of lemons.

Matt Cassel is most certainly not a franchise quarterback and it’s time the Chiefs found one.

For Cassel and the Chiefs, it’s time to blow this doomed marriage up.

The idea that many writers were touting this past offseason was – if the Chiefs surround Matt with all the right pieces then he’ll be serviceable — at the least, with a chance to be pretty good. Well, the Chiefs have surrounded Cassel with all the right pieces but, he just hasn’t performed well — at all.

The ESPN Power Rankings this week place the Chiefs at #27 — and their comment about the Chiefs was, “If the Chiefs had a better backup quarterback, would he be playing now?” I would say — he is playing now — that’s all Matt Cassel should be expected to do — be a backup.

Matt Cassel is a bad quarterback. There — I said it.

He’s not just an “average” QB anymore. He’s bad.

I just don’t know why GM Scott Pioli can’t see what most fans in Chiefs Nation can see.

Or — is Pioli stuck in some kind of rank-and-order, good-ole-boy, vortex — that no one can shake him from?

If that’s the case , it stinks — badly. And it’s wafting.

I know there are those of you out there who are Cassel lovers — or at least supporters. I’d like to hear from you. What is it that keeps you satisfied with his performances? Help me understand, because — like many — I’m miffed and adrift and looking for a lift.

 

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