Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Re-Evaluating Matt Cassel
by Jeff Herr,posted Nov 1 2011 3:57PM
Bill Parcells is a legend. Besides winning 2 Super Bowls he also tutored multiple Super Bowl winning coaches. Tom Coughlin, Sean Payton, and Bill Belichick all come from the “Parcells Coaching Tree.”
With all his impressive on-the-field results, Parcells is highly regarded for his off-the-field acumen as well. In addition to coaching, his ability to build a team has been well documented. A famous quote of Parcells is “if I’m going to cook dinner, I want to shop for the groceries.” What he’s saying here is he wants to pick the players he’s putting on the field.
In his career, Parcells has been afforded this opportunity. The process Parcells goes through to build a team has been well documented in his drafts. Two of the most heralded Parcells missives are his “draft value chart” and his rules for drafting a quarterback. Parcells QB drafting rules are as follows:
1. The QB must be a senior
2. The QB must be a graduate
3. The QB must be a 3 year starter
4. The QB must have 23 wins
The reasons for these rules are very logical. The QB must be a senior because it takes a long time to develop at that position. He must be a graduate because it shows a level of responsibility and dedication that is needed for the position. The QB must be a 3-year starter because success at the position relies on experience. The QB must have 23 wins because they most show an ability to lead their team to victory.
This all becomes relevant when evaluating Chiefs starting quarterback Matt Cassel. He doesn’t meet the two most important criteria from above. It was well publicized when Cassel started his first game for the Patriots in 2008 that he had not started a game since high school. As a highly recruited QB at USC, Cassel bided his time behind Heisman trophy winner Carson Palmer. Cassel then lost a battle to Matt Leinart (who also won the Heisman) to be Palmer’s successor.
Parcells surely would not have endorsed the drafting of Cassel. However, the Patriots saw something in him that could be useful. When Brady went down with a season ending knee injury in 2008, they got to see how useful Cassel could be. He went on to lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record, narrowly missing the playoffs. He parlayed his success that season into a trade to the Chiefs and a subsequent $60+ million contract.
Cassel has had a roller coaster career here in KC. A mediocre first season led fans to question his ability. Was he really worth the money that was paid for him? (let alone the 2nd round draft pick that was given up) His second year started off rocky but he ended up with solid numbers and made a Pro Bowl. Even with that, fans still question Cassel’s ability.
When Cassel threw a crucial interception in Week 3 against San Diego, fans continued to think that Cassel can’t get the job done. Were Chiefs’ fans gripes legitimate? Looking at Parcells criteria, it may not be. Let me explain.
Experience is the predominant factor that contributes to a QB’s success. At some point, a QB either has the talent or they don’t. That said, if they have the talent, they still need the experience to be successful. This is why Parcells’ criteria mandates that a QB must have been a 3-year starter. You can only learn so much from film, practice, and playbooks. A QB has to be in the game to take the necessary steps towards being good.
To put into perspective, Cassel has started 52 games since high school. Matt Stafford started 33 games before he ever set foot on an NFL field. Sam Bradford started 31 games before getting drafted. And before Andrew Luck graduates he will have started 38 games. The numbers are similar for Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. These QBs didn’t have to jump two steps at once. They got acclimated at one level, and then progressed. Cassel hasn’t had that luxury.
Let’s assume Cassel would have had 30 starts in college if he would have won the job at USC. This would be the same amount of experience he had after two years as an NFL starter. Cassel was basically playing his first two years as an NFL QB with the experience of a freshman in college. While he still got to practice with college and pro teams, it’s not the same. The speed of a live game is different than practice and that is where a QB hones his skill.
It’s no coincidence that last year was Cassel’s best year as a pro. After finally acquiring good experience, Cassel was able to make some of the throws you would expect an NFL QB to make. He still had his struggles, but he also made the Pro Bowl.
With the success of last season, Cassel continues to make improvements. After a horrendous start to the season, Cassel has turned things around a bit. Cassel looks more confident and comfortable in the pocket. He has improved his accuracy, is moving better in the pocket, and going through his progressions more. The results on the field are a little slow to catch up, but they will.
Cassel was anointed as a franchise QB. A lot of that was due to Cassel’s large contract. Another larger part was an organization that believes he is a franchise QB. The fan base has expected him to immediately give them results. What we have seen so far has mediocre at best. However, given his situation Cassel deserves a re-evaluation by the fans. He is improving and still has room left to grow. When the on-field results catch up to his progressions this will be one scary team.
I want to see a well-thrown ball down the field before I change my mind on the C-man. I am willing to agree that he's improving, and understandably, he was going to have some bumps this year with so much turnover on the offensive line.
Down Field Throw
I think he made some excellent downfield throws in the second half of the 1st Chargers game. I also think he made some really good downfield throws into some small windows last year. His throw to Baldwin in the end zone was perfect in that he put it where Baldwin catches it or nobody does. When he is comfortable he can make that throw and he is getting more and more comfortable each game.