Like it or not, every general manager hangs his hat on the quarterback position. Draft yourself a franchise quarterback and you're a genius. Scott Pioli is forever tied to Tom Brady. Thomas Dimitroff enjoys Matt Ryan's feather in his cap. Ted Thompson now joins this group with the fervor surrounding his decision to draft and ultimately go with Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers.
But it's not just a rookie quarterback that poses this praise/criticism. Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan gambled with Donovan McNabb for their quarterback choice and paid dearly for it in the standings and the press. The Bears finally justified their mega-trade for Jay Cutler after nearly making the Super Bowl, although it should be noted that some are still unconvinced.
The same can be said for Pioli's second go-around with the Chiefs as he chose Matt Cassel to be his cornerstone.
The Chiefs experienced a tremendous turnaround last season and Matt Cassel's turnaround was a key part of the momentum shift. The former USC back-up had a season few would have expected, watching his passer rating rise from 69.9 in 2009 to 93.0, a few points better than his strong season leading the Patriots in 2008. His touchdown/interception ratio went from 16/16 to 27/7, a direct response to a better performance from his offensive line, as his sacks lowered from 42 to 26.
Some still wonder whether Cassel is the right person to lead the Chiefs, and a quick glance at these statistics make such questions seem silly. Yet the Chiefs are once again changing offensive coordinators, moving from Charlie Weis, who darted for the college game in Gainesville, to former offensive line coach Bill Muir. In other words, the heavy hand of Todd Haley will determine Cassel's future success.
Yet you could also say that Cassel's not even done growing yet, given his lack of starting experience. He has yet another starting season under his belt leading a franchise and his confidence can only grow with more time with his line and his receivers and experience while coordinating the action under center.
If things head south, Weis will be praised and Haley will be blamed -- with Pioli not far behind on the complaint list if the Chiefs experience a major downturn. Like it or not, that's the way it works in today's NFL.