The Kansas City Chiefs obviously made a concerted effort during the offseason to help Matt Cassel and the Chiefs offense heading into the 2011 season. Cassel made the first Pro Bowl of his career after his 2010 season in which he threw for over 3,000 yards and had 27 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. His 93.0 passer rating was the best of his career as well.
It wasn't just about stats during the 2010 season though, Cassel showed a lot to players, fans, coaches and teammates when he came back from an appendectomy to play against the St. Louis Rams less than two weeks removed from surgery. There was also the play in which Cassel scrambled and dove for a first down late in the game that sealed the game for the Chiefs. A collective exhale could be heard in St. Louis from every Chiefs fan that was holding their breath waiting for Cassel to get up after that play. He did and they won. The victory against the Rams set the Chiefs up for division title and adorned him to fans that may have been on the fence about him before.
While some fans out there might still be on the fence about him or his ability to win the Chiefs a Super Bowl. There is no denying that the Chiefs have matured as a football team over the last two years that Cassel has been in charge. He's the first guy in the door and last guy to leave type-of-player that you want your quarterback to be. You could say he's in the mold that coaches and players that are around him everyday aren't that surprised to find out how successful he's become. A baseball example is Roy Halladay. Any teammate that has played him him would tell you that he is by far the hardest working pitcher in Major League Baseball. And they aren't surprised by his success because they've seen the work he puts in and the effort he goes to perfect his craft.
It's not that Cassel is on the equivalent-level in football as Halladay is in baseball. But their work ethic defines their success, and nobody has questioned his work ethic. Therefore nobody will be surprised when he continues to get better. Most quarterbacks don't just pop right out and win Super Bowls without struggling first. But with all this Andrew Luck talk already, we should expect a Super Bowl as a rookie and most likely for San Francisco, who at this rate will have him fall into their lap. It wasn't that long ago that Peyton Manning was chastised for not being able to "win the big one". As soon as he did those criticisms slowly faded away and 'oh so quickly how we forget'.
This bold prediction is that Matt Cassel will again reach the Pro Bowl in 2011. It could be the same kind of situation that happened last year that had Cassel take Tom Brady's place because of an injury. Bottom line is that he was next on that list and he had earned the spot on the team based on his 2010 performance. He will again earn a spot for his 2011 season.
The 2011 schedule is not going to do any favors for a chance at a repeat performance. But good thing for Cassel is that he got some help around him this offseason. Jim Zorn will most likely have the biggest effect on Matt Cassel's career from this point on than anyone else. Cassel has a knowledgeable go-to-guy that is all his own to bounce ideas off and strategize in-game situations that he never had before. Throw in Steve Breaston, Jon Baldwin and LeRon McClain and all of the sudden you have the makings of a much improved offense.
This prediction is based around the idea that Matt Cassel is going to be better in 2011 than he was in 2010. The Chiefs play almost half of their games in 2011 against teams whose defenses finished in the top 10 in scoring in the NFL last season. Pittsburgh (1st 14.5), Green Bay (2nd 15), Chicago (4th 17.9), New York Jets (6th 19), New England (8th 19.6) and San Diego (10th 20.1). That's seven of their 16 games with playing San Diego twice.
The schedule in late November is going to be telling for Chiefs fans in how close this team is to playing with the cream of the crop in the AFC. Most Chiefs fans would tell you that they're still probably one year away from being at that level. But consecutive games against New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York and Green Bay from Monday, November 21st to Sunday, December 18th will show how close, or far, the Chiefs are to competing at the level that fans want so badly right now.
Part of the problem when talking about Matt Cassel is the instant-gratification world that we all live in right now. Everything is instant right now. It's no longer good enough to wait for a reporter or analyst to give us the news, we look online or have someone 'tweet' us the info. It's just like fans not wanting to give Cassel time to develop as a quarterback. We want success and we want it right now. Many would like to talk about the fact that he's 29 years old and he should be in his prime right now. But the truth of the matter is that he's only entering his 4th year as a starter in the NFL. Like it or not, that's more important than his actual age. If he were a rookie he'd still be on his first contract.
Cassel will throw for around 3500 yards and his TD/Int ratio will again be better than 3 to 1 in 2011. The success that the Chiefs have in 2011 against their tough schedule means that Cassel is a shoe-in for his second-consecutive Pro Bowl.