His name is Matthew Gus Brennan Cassel, but his fans simply refer to him as Matt Cassel. Cassel, nicknamed “Moose” as a young lad, has had quite an interesting career in both college and professional sports.
Unfortunately, the Moose has always played second fiddle to other more popular sports figures throughout his career. For example, during his entire college football career at the University of Southern California, the Moose played behind Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer. When he was drafted in 2005, he also found himself playing back-up again behind NFL legend Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. And as recent as 2011, Cassel was still playing “second banana” when he was named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl in place of that same New England quarterback. One could argue that the Moose has simply been unlucky in his football career because wherever he goes a better player at his position also goes.
Nevertheless, there are no indications that he is incapable of being a competitor or leader on the football field. I think that he proved to all of us in December of 2010, as well as the 2008 NFL season, that he is still a Trojan Man. In 2008, after a season ending injury to Tom Brady by former Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard, Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record; and for the first time in NFL history an 11-5 team didn’t make the playoffs. Again in 2010, the Moose proved his heart and leadership when he underwent emergency appendectomy surgery, and then two weeks later led the Chiefs to victories over both the Rams and the Titans. Fortunately, those two victories were ultimately the deciding factor in the Chiefs capturing the 2010 AFC West title. We can’t deny the fact that the Moose is very athletic and very capable. In fact, the Moose even played one year of college baseball while at USC where he finished his career with a 0-1 pitching record, with ten strikeouts and four walks. In the eight games total in which he played he acquired two saves, and had an ERA of 9.35 (Ugghh!). Surprisingly though, he struck out in his only at bat during those eight games.
In any event, as time has passed things did eventually work out for the Moose for he has literally found himself a home and a job as commander and chief. He doesn’t have to look over his shoulder anymore, or lose any of the attention from fans that professional athletes love to immerse themselves in. In this instance, he is finally considered “the man,” or “the Moose.” He is entering the fourth year of a six-year, $62.7 million contract that included $28 million in guaranteed money, and in 2012 he will have as many weapons as the Patriots did in 2008 when he passed for nearly 3,700 yards and 21 touchdowns. For the upcoming football season, Matt Cassel has found himself standing alone with the hopes of an entire franchise resting on his shoulders. As it stands, the Moose is the guy, and the time is NOW. There is no plan B. The franchise has gone out of their way to provide him with everything that he needs to succeed. He has been accommodated with the finest of resources. The Moose has gotten lucky for once, and from this point forward there will be no room for any excuses.
Since Bruce Smith gave Joe Montana a concussion in the 1994 AFC Championship game (where fans also saw Thurman Thomas rush 33 times for 186 yards and 3 TD’s), Chiefs fans have been yearning for a Super Bowl caliber quarterback. Since that time the Chiefs have been led by quarterbacks such as Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac, Trent Green, and Damon Huard, and I can’t forget poor Brodie. Of that group, Trent Green had received the most votes for “most likely to succeed.”
Chiefs’ fans have been traumatized many times by the quarterback rotations made by the club since the departure of Montana. Most notably, during the end of the 1997 season when ol’ Marty decided to ride with Elvis Grbac over Rich Gannon in the playoffs, or who could forget the Brodie Croyle experiment where he never won a game as a Chief, or for any team for that matter. Then it almost happened again in 2011, when Kyle Orton surfaced and nearly took Chiefs fans back to the “Marty Ball” debacle of 1997. So, the quarterback situation is a very touchy subject for Chiefs fans.
Before we begin some comparisons, I would like to remind some folks about an interesting fact concerning the time that Cassel has spent in Kansas City.
In the three seasons that he has been with the Chiefs, he has had three different offensive coordinators, and will have a fourth coordinator for the 2012 season. This situation is very different from the time that the Moose spent in New England where he had Josh McDaniels to hold his hand the entire way.
In 2009 the offensive coordinator was Todd “the sociopath” Haley, in 2010 it was Charlie “get me outta here” Weis, and in 2011 it was Bill “I’ve never done this before” Muir, and in 2012 it will be Brian “I never had a top 15 offense” Daboll.
In comparison to many of the quarterbacks drafted in 2005, the Moose is one of the few remaining. That draft class had 14 quarterbacks selected, 13 of them went before the Moose at the 230th pick. The only quarterback drafted AFTER the Moose was Ryan Fitzpatrick of Harvard (250th overall), who is currently the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. The names from that draft class also included quarterbacks Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, David Green, Kyle Orton, Stephan LeFors, Dan Orlovsky, Adrian McPherson, Derek Anderson, and the Chiefs’ 2005 draft pick, James Kilian of Tulsa (229th overall). All were selected before the Moose. Other notable picks prior to the Moose being selected were Alex Smith (1st overall pick), Aaron Rodgers (24 overall), and Jason Campbell (25th overall).
Since 2005 the Moose has passed for 11,699 yards with a QB Rating of 79.4. This is in contrast to Smith who has passed for 12,424 yards with a rating of 76.4, Rodgers who has passed for 17,366 yards with a rating of 104.1, Jason Campbell who has passed for 14,417 yard with a 82.8 rating, Kyle Orton who has passed for 14,532 yards with a rating of 79.4, and Ryan Fitzpatrick who has passed for 10,936 yards with a 75.0 QB rating.
And as for James Kilian, the Chiefs 7th round pick of the 2005 draft, he went on to play football for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Nashville Kats of the Canadian Football League after only one season in a Chiefs uniform.
What does all of this say about the Chiefs eye for talent at the quarterback position; I don’t know.
But what I can tell you is that for the 2012 season the Chiefs have put everything in place for the Moose to take them deep into the playoffs. I want Chiefs fans to review some of the names on the 2012 roster; although much of the talent is indeterminate, it is loaded with potential. On the offensive line for example, we may have a group that could some day resemble the Secret Service Agency that protects Tom Brady in New England. On the defensive side of the ball, if everyone is healthy, the Chiefs should have a top 15 defense in 2012.
Since 2008 the Moose has had eight game-winning drives, with the last one being on Halloween 2011 in a 23-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Of those eight, five of them were fourth quarter comebacks. During that same time span, Aaron Rodgers, a Super Bowl MVP, has had six game-winning drives, three of them being fourth quarter comebacks. The Moose undoubtedly has the ability, heart, and experience to get the job done. His stats are similar to those of his peers, but there remains a lot of room for improvement.
In short, I hope that things work out for the Moose in 2012 because if they don’t, he may find himself wearing an Arizona Cardinals jersey in 2013.