FanPost

Matt Cassel Redux

First, I had never been a Cassel fan in the past. I always thought he was a system-guy and his drop-off after leaving the Patriots seemed to confirm that. When he came to the Vikes, I strongly suspected that that part of the reason he was chosen was that there was no chance in hell that he could threaten Ponder's sense of security and entitlement to the starting position. The guy was a disaster last year, in KC, and while I don't condone cheering for your own QB when he gets injured, that stands as a testament to the great, big, howling bowl of SUCK that Cassel dished out to the fans.

Whew. Ok, now that that's out of the way, there's a couple things that kept nagging at the back of my noggin....

1) Matt Cassel is now a Viking. Nothing else much matters to me as much as this one salient fact about him. So now, I want him to succeed. Completely, wildly, fabulously, I want him to be awesome. Of course, that won't ever happen unless Ponder sucks or gets injured, and I cheer Ponder for the same reason I'm going to cheer for Matt Cassel; they're Vikings. So I wanted to give the guy a closer look.

2) Matt Cassel's success may have been because he was the perfect cog in Belichick's system, but it was still a success... So Cassel is capable of outstanding performance, if the system and talent are put in place around hm.

Part Deux is especially interesting when I remember that we have Bill Musgrave as our Offensive Coordinator, who appears to be a big fan of the Belichick system, both the 2-TE sets and the language... he's been working on building that 2-TE set for a couple years now, and it looks like that bun in the oven is just about ready, with Rudy coming into his own and fresh off a Pro Bowl appearance, a serviceable Carlson on the other side, and up-and-coming talent behind them.

Musgrave worked (and according to his own words in this interview), with, and was influenced by, former Viking TE and now, Jaguars Head Coach, Mike Mularkey, who was known for using the TE sets very creatively, and very physically, as well as with Mike Shanahan. Musgrave came from Mike Smith's tutelage in Atlanta, and Smith came out of the Belichick coaching tree.

Which brings me back to Matt Cassel.... system-guy. Back-up Minnesota Vikings QB.

So why did Cassel blow huge, hairy chunks, in KC? That wasn't always the case... (stats compiled from NFL.com)

Team

NFL Team Ranking

Matt Cassel

Year

Team

GS

W

L

O-Line

Receive

Rush

ATT

YDs

TDs

INT

QBR

2008

NE

15

10

5

--

10

6

327

3693

21

11

89.4

2009

KC

15

4

11

27

23

11

271

2924

16

16

69.9

2010

KC

15

10

5

13

31

1

262

3116

27

7

93.0

2011

KC

9

4

5

14

26

15

160

1713

10

9

76.6

2012

KC

9

2

14

22

31

5

161

1796

6

12

66.7

Cassel's first three seasons in New England were strictly as a backup, very limited playing time and no stats worth mentioning, so I omitted them. Then Brady went down and Cassel stepped into the big-boy cleats and did well enough to wow the NFL. That got Belichick one of his uber-trades and Cassel got a ticket to Kansas City. His first year in KC was pretty mediocre, but I'm sure everyone there gave him a pass. New kid in a new system. His second year, though, he goes 10-5 with a 93.0 QBR and takes the Chiefs to the playoffs (10-6 overall) with a wildcard slot. Not bad at all. But after that Cinderella year, his best ever, Cassel's slid downhill fast. 2011 was 76.6 QBR and 2012 was an abysmal 66.7 QBR. Yeah, I know, no one likes QBR, but I'm looking at as a relative measure of his own performance across the years.

So why did he do so well in 2010, and fall off a cliff, afterwards? Did his ability just peak? Or were there other factors involved?

I'm not a stats guy, I'm just trying to get a sense of under which circumstances Cassel excelled, and where he failed, to see if the problem was more his own ability (or lack thereof), or was it the situation. NFL.com doesn't have O-line rankings prior to 2009. Cassel was injured in both the past two seasons.

In 2008 he was with NE, and 2009-2012 it was KC. Obviously the supporting cast is very different. But in 2010, he excelled WITHOUT the help of an outstanding receiver corps. On the other hand, he had the best running game in the NFL to fall back on, the Chiefs made it to a WC game and his QB was pushing up towards elite level.

In 2011, he sucked and got injured, and the O-line was pretty much the same as was in 2010 and the receivers were only marginally better. The difference was the lack of a top-ranked running game.

In 2012, he sucked worse and got injured, and the O-line had nose-dived, which also hurt the running game.

But it does look as though, when Cassel has a good O-line to give him time and a good rushing game to keep the opposition honest, he's capable of turning in a very good performance. A good WR corps, for him, appears to be icing on the cake; he can get the job done even without great wide-outs.

And it just so happens that the Vikings have the NFL's 2nd ranked rushing game (are you kidding me?!) and 11th ranked O-line, and that O-line should be better this year, than it was last year. Add to that, a decent WR corps, which is what Jennings / Wright / Simpson / Webb / Rudy / Carlson appear to be shaping into, and a system that fits him, Cassel may well far out-perform expectations if he's ever called on to step up.

This little exercise gives me cause for some hope, that even if Ponder doesn't pan out this year, all is not lost. Not even close.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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