Why Matt Cassel Can Be Good Starting Quarterback in the NFL

Matt Cassel Plays Well Against Colts

Matt Cassel Plays Well Against Colts

There has been a lot of speculation about whether Matt Cassel can be solid staring quarterback in the NFL for a team other than the Patriots. Some think he can, but others think he will be the next Scott Mitchell, who had an excellent season replacing Dan Marino after he tore his Achilles tendon, but then was a complete flop in Detroit.

There are several reasons why I think Matt Cassel will be a solid starting quarterback in the NFL.

The clearest indication that Matt Cassel has a lot of potential as a starter is the way he improved over the course of last season. In a lot of ways he was a real mess at the beginning of the season. He had what I call the “Rob Johnson” disease. He held the ball too long instead of throwing it away or making a quick decision on a throw. As a result he took big hits, took too many sacks, turned the ball over, or lost yards. Only bad things happen when a quarterback holds the ball too long. He also tended to run the ball too soon instead of waiting for a play to develop. And while he was accurate on longer throws, he was terrible with his accuracy in the red zone.

Thankfully, for Patriots fans, he drastically improved over the course of the season. If you look at the first six games of the regular season, Matt Cassel was not a disaster at quarterback, but had he not improved from his aforementioned proclivities the New England Patriots would not have had an 11-5 record. Cassel had maybe his worst outing of the season in a blowout loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 6, where he exhibited every single one of his bad habits.

After the San Diego game Cassel improved rapidly. His decision making was quicker and he was getting rid of the ball faster. He wasn’t taking as many sacks. He threw the ball away when he should have and he ran the ball when he should have. His accuracy was also more consistent, although at times he continued to struggle in the red zone, although even here he improved.

Since Matt Cassel had never started a game since high school it is not very surprising he struggled with regular season game speed and decision making at the start of the season. Any quarterback that showed the kind of poise and improvement over the course of the season that Matt Cassel did can be a top notch starter in the league.

Matt Cassel also showed a lot of leadership. He stayed positive and poised despite replacing Tom Brady, who many consider to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Just imagine the kind pressure and microscope Cassel was under. And he handled it very, very well. He also handled the criticism heaped on him during the early parts of the season for his mistakes. He didn’t get down on himself and just continued to improve.

Cassel also played well under big game pressure. Two of New England’s biggest losses, to the Colts and Jets, were not at all Cassel’s fault.  In the second Jets game that the Patriots lost in overtime, Cassel had a brilliant second half but his teammates fumbled the ball away and dropped easy passes for first downs, preventing New England from winning the game outright in regulation. But for a coin flip going the Jets way in overtime, Matt Cassel, with is over 400 yards passing, may have brought the Patriots back from a 24-13 halftime deficit. Cassel also played an excellent game against the Oakland Raiders after losing his father. And while admittedly with a rather weak schedule, the Patriots closed out the season with four straight wins.

Finally, the coaches showed a lot of confidence in Matt Cassel. By the second half of the season the playbook had clearly opened up for Cassel, showing the coaches’ confidence that he could get the job done in the passing game.

And there is no way the Patriots give Matt Cassel the franchise tag if they don’t think he will be a good starting quarterback in the league. They will undoubtedly trade Cassel, but if they thought they could not get a good deal for him at his over 14 million dollar salary, they would have simply let him become a free agent. And that speaks volumes for a team that is known for its adept handling of talent. And if reports of Brady’s recovery are not true, there is no way they tie up that kind of salary cap space for a quarterback they don’t believe can get them to the Super Bowl.

Now it certainly is possible that Matt Cassel goes to another team and flops. It is really difficult at the quarterback position to know how a player might fare under another system, with new coaches and teammates. But I don’t believe that will happen. While he might not end up being elite like a Manning or Brady, he definitely, right now, is one of the better quarterbacks in the league and could make a big difference for a playoff caliber team in need of a good quarterback like the Minnesota Vikings, or a bad team trying to rebuild like a San Francisco 49’ers or Kansas City Chiefs.


10 thoughts on “Why Matt Cassel Can Be Good Starting Quarterback in the NFL

  1. I find it interesting that you say Cassel could be a good starter in the NFL. You wax poetic the entire time about how Cassel improved, games in which he did well against good competition.

    Yet with all the compliments you shower upon Cassel not once do you mention the Patriots WR core which is one of the best in the NFL. Wes Welker and Randy Moss give Welker plenty of options to go to when he’s in trouble or looking to make a play.

    It’s not coincidence that Tom Brady put up one of the greatest season’s in the history of the game with essentially the same core of receivers.

    Why you fail to include this point in this entire article, seems at least a little peculiar.


  2. Thanks for the comment. Granted Cassel has some good receivers, but it still takes a good QB to get them the ball. And since New England, for the most part, is a passing team, that puts even more pressure on the QB to play fundamentally sound football. And I’m not saying he’s the greatest QB in the world, I’m just saying that he is capable of being an above average starter in the league. Wouldn’t you rather have Cassel than Kyle Orton or Rex Grossman, or a Tarvaris Jackson, based on what you’ve seen this year? I would.

  3. I would rather have Cassel than either Grossman or Tavaris Jackson most certainly. Kyle Orton I say no, I’m fine with Orton and the way he played in 2008.

    Orton is on the opposite end of the spectrum, he played pretty well this year with probably the WORST receiving core in the NFL.

    Can Cassel be successful in this league? Possibly I won’t rule it out, but I’d like to see how he looks consistently outside of the Patriots’ system.

  4. I agree with that. I was not trying to make him out to be the next coming or anything. Just pointing out that he played well enough to where I think he can continue to improve and be a good starting QB. Then again, like I say in the post, he could be a bust too.

  5. I always enjoy listening to people try to analyze teams and players, especially those who have never played the game.

    I tend to agree with Doug’s assessment relative to Cassell and his potential with another team. He has proven to be a quick study, athletic and a good leader. There are a number of teams that would benefit if they were to acquire his services.

    As far as always referring to the WR’s that adorn the Pats roster and how they enhance his capabilities, it is true that he has an excellent receiving core to throw to. This is also true for a number of other QB’s in the league, eg., Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Tyler Thigpen, etc. Are you trying to imply that if we were to remove any of the QB’s with talented wide receivers and place them elsewhere that they would not be able to flourish? Remember, football is a team game. Everyone needs to be operating on an equal level. If Cassell went to a team with a less than stellar wide receiver core, I would hope the coach would recognize that the QB must operate differently. This is where Cassell’s coachability, athleticism and leadership will play a critical role. He is more than a system quaterback and a one trick pony. This can not be said for the likes of Jackson (Minn), Thigpen (KC), Cutler (Den) and, yes, possibly Orton (Chic).

    Before anyone questions Cassell’s ability or the Patriots “system”, they should look at their own team and ask why their QB can not do similar things and why they don’t have quality receivers and why their coaches are not as capable as the Pats when it comes to instituting a system and finding players to perform in that system.

  6. Well capatriot, I can tell you why Orton has trouble putting up the level of numbers in the Bears’ offensive system that Cassel puts up. The Bears have a really bad base offensive system in place. Former players have openly criticized the system, Mushin Muhammad threw out the quote directly that it’s a system where WRs go to die.

    Plus Lovie Smith is a defensive minded coach so when he has a lead of 10-points or better he tends to go extremely conservative and take the ball out of the offense’s hands and give it over to the defense to win the game. Plenty of times when the Bears’ offense was running fairly efficiently and mistake free he chose to run the ball.

    There are a lot of aspects of the Bears’ offense that factor into it’s ineptitude. Historically speaking it’s been QB play, but Orton was efficient enough for the most part that the Bears were in the hunt for the playoffs right up until the end of it.

    I suppose I should point out the fact that the Patriots were 6 games below their win total from last year with Cassel at the helm.

    I would also say that if you put the offensive system the Patriots run in place in Chicago the offense would perform a lot worse.

  7. Thanks for the kind words Doug, I’m trying to get my blog off to a good start. It’s been a few days and so far so good I suppose. I think it helps that there is plenty to write about with the combine going on and free agency getting ready to kick off.

    I added your blog to my blog roll as well. It’s nice to read good football articles that aren’t full of the regular media cliches we’re so often used to.

  8. So we’re going to get our wish, we’re going to find out what type of player Matt Cassel really is and we’ll do it rather quickly. Getting traded to the Chiefs for a second rounder #34 overall is a nice pickup for the Chiefs, IF the value of Cassel is what you say it is.

    The Chiefs will have gotten a steal, if not then the Patriots are well, still the Patriots.

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