Does Alex Smith Offer Hope For Matt Cassel?


Is Matt Cassel a franchise QB?

Ask ten Chiefs fans what they think about Matt Cassel and you will probably get ten different answers. There are sure to be some who think he will still continue to improve and, if given the time, will become good enough to lead a well rounded Chiefs team to a championship. Others will say that we’ve seen enough to know that Cassel is average at best and will never lead the Chiefs to a playoff victory, let alone the Super Bowl.

Those in the group that believe Cassel isn’t good enough often point to the likes of Brady, Manning, Brees and Rodgers as evidence that to win it all, a team needs a stud QB. A difference maker.

Those in the group that believe that Cassel is good enough, might find a dog in that franchise QB fight in San Francisco QB Alex Smith.

To be fair, Alex Smith was drafted to be a franchise QB. He was taken first in the 2005 draft. His career, until this season, has been a major disappointment. Still, he was drafted and developed by the 49ers, where Matt Cassel was a 7th round pick drafted by the Patriots.

Other than where they were taken, however, Cassel and Smith are somewhat similar in their age and performance. To date, Smith has played in 70 NFL games. Cassel has played in 69. Cassel’s career completion percentage is 59%; Smith’s is 58. Cassel’s average completion is 6.62 and Smith’s is 6.40. Cassel’s tossed 76 TD’s and 45 picks and Smith’s tossed 68 TD’s and 58 picks. Cassel enjoys a career QB rating of 82.5 while Smith’s is 76.4. Cassel is 29 years old, Smith is 27.

Until this season, Smith was thought to be a bust. But the arrival of a new coach in San Francisco seemed to turn things around for him. He’s having a career year. His numbers aren’t jaw dropping but they are certainly efficient. In the regular season, Smith completed 61.3% of his passes for 3,144 for an average of over seven yards per completion. He threw 17 TD’s vs. five interceptions and had a QB rating of 90.7.

In last week’s divisional playoff game vs. the New Orleans Saints, Smith completed 57% of his passes for 299 yards, three TD’s and no interceptions. He finished with a QB rating of 103.2 and anyone who watched that game can tell you that, in the 4th quarter, Smith outdueled Drew Brees to help his team win the game.

In fact, Smith’s 2011 regular season is very similar to Matt Cassel’s 2010 season. Cassel completed 58% of his passes in 2010 for 3,116 yards and a 6.92 yards per completion average. He tossed 27 TD’s vs. 7 picks and finished with a QB rating of 93.0.

Both Smith and Cassel benefited from strong running games and weak divisions. Both got some help from strong defense, Smith more so than Cassel.

This weekend, Alex Smith and the 49ers will play for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

Should this give us hope for Matt Cassel? After all, I think most Chiefs fans would agree that next year’s KC defense should be stronger than ever, and perhaps even dominate. The return of Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki should help get the offense back on track. There will be a new draft class as well as (hopefully) a new crop of free agents. I would go so far as to say that Matt Cassel’s 2012 receiving options will be better than what Alex Smith is working with in 2011.

Is Alex Smith proof that the doubter might need to reevaluate Matt Cassel? If Alex Smith keeps winning, does that mean that Matt Cassel can follow in his footsteps?

Cassel and Smith are different QB’s. There are also things that a QB does that might not necessarily show up on the stat sheet. Still, Smith’s success has to give Chiefs fans at least a little bit of hope.
And since it looks like Matt Cassel will be the starter in KC in 2012, a little bit of hope might not be a bad thing.