KANSAS CITY MO - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens in their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 9 2011 in Kansas City Missouri. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The consistent questions about Cassel make no sense given the quarterback's performance on and off the field.
The emotion has died down. The parties are settled in. Everyone seems comfortable. And it's that last word that makes the media stir up drama that needn't be referenced.
The Kansas City Chiefs are set with Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback. At this point, you'd think this would be a no-brainer -- or what you might call a non-story. Yet another article recently came out at ESPN praising the Chiefs draft selection of former Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi (and rightfully so), and yet another pundit (in this instance, Steve Muench) has Stanzi as the Chiefs future signalcaller.
Look, that might just happen. At the very least, that would be a thrilling scenario to have Stanzi look that good. After all, a team with two starting caliber quarterbacks is the team in the driver's seat when it comes to trade chips, so Scott Pioli should be praised for grabbing Stanzi when he did. Immediately, several football analysts praised the move and as draft report cards were released in the ensuing days, more and more came out in favor of Stanzi as one of their favorite picks by the Chiefs front office.
They are right. It was a smart move. The Chiefs hadn't drafted a developmental quarterback for some time, but when they finally struck, they found a smart, accurate quarterback from a very solid football program. Stanzi was a natural leader with a lot of charisma and work ethic who seems to fit the Chiefs mold quite well. Brodie Croyle was their last quarterback they'd taken and that experiment had run its course, especially with Croyle sitting at 0-10 as a fill-in starter over the last few years. It was the right quarterback at the right time.
So this isn't about Stanzi. Instead, it's about the lack of respect that Cassel seems to receive in the media or even with fans. The team has made statement after statement each year that Cassel is their guy. They traded a second round choice to get him as Pioli's first big signature move as a general manager. They gave him a big money extension. Head Coach Todd Haley has continually supported him game after game and never wavered on his commitment. And the Chiefs turned the corner under his watch, unexpectedly winning the AFC West last year and becoming one of the most promising young teams in the NFL in the process.
To appease the statisticians, Cassel threw for 27 touchdowns last year against only 7 interceptions. He had a 93.0 quarterback rating and threw for 3,116 yards on a team that led the NFL in rushing yards. He also finally found his primary receiver in Dwayne Bowe and made him the NFL leader in TD receptions. And all he's done since then is impress everyone but the Denver Broncos mascot with his off-season leadership and ability to carry the team through the chaos of the lockout.
Now in Muench's defense, he didn't specifically say that Stanzi is better than Cassel or even that he would be. He also didn't say the Chiefs will choose Stanzi in the short or long-term. Instead, writer Bill Williamson made this observation: "Muench said he thinks Stanzi will be ready to take over the an NFL offense in the 2013 season if the Chiefs want to move away from Matt Cassel." That's a safe statement with subtle overtures, but again those overtures are exactly the save waves that keeping washing up on Cassel's shores again and again -- that Cassel is not the glitzy, strong-armed quarterback who will ultimately get the job done (read: win a Super Bowl) in KC.
The reality is that Matt Cassel has done nothing but prove to be a fine leader and consistent quarterback on a rising young team in the NFL. Perhaps most fans are okay with Cassel, but there's a vocal group who continue to believe that the Chiefs could do better, but one quick glimpse around the NFL at the available quarterbacks for trade (or those who were available in the draft) only make me say, "Where is this better that you keep looking for?"
We're all in the same boat and hope that Stanzi turns out to make good on every prediction of future greatness. At the same time, I also realize that Matt Cassel is a very good quarterback in the interim and the perfect person to lead the Chiefs for both now and the future as far as we can see it.