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Tribal Warfare
11-26-2010, 12:00 AM
Fate has smiled upon Cassel after he lost out at USC (http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/25/2472025/fate-has-smiled-upon-cassel-after.html)
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

They say it could’ve come down to a coin flip, but futures and lives aren’t decided by such binary means.

The fact is, Matt Cassel and Matt Leinart were both struggling through the 2004 preseason at Southern California, and coach Pete Carroll had to make a decision on a starting quarterback. If neither was better than the other, then Carroll had to decide who was less bad. It was Leinart by a hair, and like that, Cassel’s career seemed to be decided.

“It’s hard to revisit,” Cassel said this week. “You didn’t know how it was all going to pan out.”

A promising young passer had his future decided by others. Now what? Stick it out or transfer? Complain about his coach’s decision or accept it?

Six years after Cassel was passed over, fate has begun to settle itself. Cassel never got his chance at USC, but now he’s the Chiefs’ starter. Leinart is the third-string passer for Houston after being released earlier this season by Arizona. Somehow, the college senior with no shot now has a firm grip on his NFL team’s future — and the other is in professional purgatory.

That, and Carroll left the college ranks after last year to join the Seattle Seahawks, whom the Chiefs will play Sunday.

“I don’t know how many times that has happened,” Carroll says. “Maybe it has, but I can’t think of any stories. I don’t know how that could’ve happened.”

But it did, and Sunday, Cassel will try to show his former coach what he missed, and the coach will try to slow what has quietly become an impressive season for the Chiefs quarterback.

Here’s the odd thing: Cassel not only doesn’t blame Carroll for benching him in 2004; he said it was the right call. And, even now, it’s difficult even to suggest that Carroll could’ve done even marginally better if he had chosen Cassel over Leinart, who had already led USC to the AP national title in 2003. The quarterback who won that preseason competition led the Trojans to that season’s BCS championship, and he also won the Heisman Trophy.

Cassel watched it all, and he admitted this week that, amid all the success, there were times that he considered transferring. He said he had a conversation with his family about moving to another school but that he remained in Los Angeles because there were other reasons to stay. He was a semester shy of graduation, and his future wife played on the Trojans’ volleyball team.

“It was in my character to just stick it out and play through it,” he said.

There aren’t many players, to say nothing of the specialized nature of quarterbacks, who sit out their college careers and then go on to a successful NFL career. Carroll and Cassel admitted that the chances were slim, and Cassel acknowledged that a certain progression of factors had to happen for him to be any pro team’s starter.

He also said that one benefit of experiencing the good and bad at USC was that the Trojans ran a pro-style offense that, even in practices, better prepared him for the NFL. Cassel said that when he arrived in New England after being a seventh-round draft pick in 2005 it “wasn’t like I was a wide-eyed rookie.”

“A lot of the drills that we were doing were very similar to what coach had already done at USC,” he said, “and so I felt very prepared going in.”

Still, he said, there was no substitute for playing. Some say that Cassel would be further along in his NFL career if he had played even one season of college football. Perhaps he would be more comfortable in the pocket, more confident in the huddle, or more finely tuned a passer.

Cassel said that, even in his sixth pro season, he’s still learning things that — who knows — he might have learned in college.

“I see things week in and week out that I learn from,” Cassel said. “Or maybe I make a mistake that you only make, really, when you’re out there on Sunday.”

Perhaps the oddest thing about Cassel’s unusual journey is that he backed up two consecutive USC passers, Carson Palmer and Leinart, who won the Heisman. Cassel’s college career, if you can call it that, passed without fanfare or even notice, and at least in 2010, he’s having the better season. Cassel’s team is 6-4, and he has thrown 18 touchdowns to four interceptions. Leinart’s career is in limbo, and the senior member of the three, Cincinnati’s Palmer, has thrown nine more interceptions than Cassel and is the leader of a 2-9 team.

Carroll said that knowing Cassel, his two predecessors’ careers likely remain in the Chiefs quarterback’s mind. And although Cassel won’t admit it, Carroll said, that could serve as motivation for the man who was once forgotten on the USC campus.

“His numbers are awesome,” Carroll said of Cassel. “In the back of Matt’s mind, I know he’s competing with all those guys. They all should be doing that. They were competing back then, and they’re still competing right now. He’s ahead a little bit.

“It’s just surroundings and situation, and Matt has taken advantage of it. All those guys can play, and they’re all really good football players. It’s who you are and who you’re surrounded by and the coaches and all that. Everything has fit together beautifully for Matt.”

Guru
11-26-2010, 12:49 AM
Oh God not another CAssel feel good story.

teedubya
11-26-2010, 01:01 AM
This was one angle that I hadn't considered for this game... interesting. I bet Cassel is highly motivated to hand his old coach his ass.

DBOSHO
11-26-2010, 01:33 AM
Ill say one thing for cassel,

If he pans out to be even a "good" quarterback, it might be the best story in nfl history as far as "keeping your head up and not quitting"

HemiEd
11-26-2010, 02:29 AM
I tell all my friends up here, that Cassel hit the lottery when Bernard Pollard, took out Brady.
This article hints that Cassel has already "overachieved" but we all hope his ceiling is much higher. We can only hope.

DenverDanChiefsFan
11-26-2010, 06:23 AM
Oh God not another CAssel feel good story.God, I know. It really sucks to read good stories about the QB of the team I root for. Fucking journalists, don't they know they are only supposed to write negative stories on the Chiefs. God I miss Whitlock. :spock:

TheGuardian
11-26-2010, 07:14 AM
Oh God not another CAssel feel good story.

Well we definitely have had more of those than "Cassel sucks" threads/posts for sure. /sarcasm

patteeu
11-26-2010, 09:36 AM
Ill say one thing for cassel,

If he pans out to be even a "good" quarterback, it might be the best story in nfl history as far as "keeping your head up and not quitting"

It won't beat Kurt Warner's story, IMO.

threebag02
11-26-2010, 09:45 AM
It won't beat Kurt Warner's story, IMO.

This...ever

Hydrae
11-26-2010, 09:45 AM
I was talking to my mom yesterday and commented on that fact that he may still be learning nuances of the game due to not playing for so many years. There just are some things that cannot be learned other than on the field.

Saul Good
11-26-2010, 09:48 AM
It would be interesting if Cassel wound up having the best career of the three.

Extra Point
11-26-2010, 09:56 AM
My pants are still dry.

Fish
11-26-2010, 09:59 AM
My pants are still dry.

ROFL

DBOSHO
11-26-2010, 10:01 AM
It won't beat Kurt Warner's story, IMO.

Shit i forgot about warner...

Carry on.

milkman
11-26-2010, 10:06 AM
Shit i forgot about warner...

Carry on.

Johny Unitas is up there as well.

Zebedee DuBois
11-26-2010, 10:21 AM
OK.. I saw "Babb: Fate" in the topic header, but registered "Bobba Fett" and thought this was just another gochiefs thread.

MahiMike
11-26-2010, 10:49 AM
Oh God not another CAssel feel good story.

Made me feel better...:D

DBOSHO
11-26-2010, 10:49 AM
Im not familiar with johnny unitas. Whats his story?

ChiefsCountry
11-26-2010, 10:51 AM
Im not familiar with johnny unitas. Whats his story?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Unitas

milkman
11-26-2010, 10:56 AM
Im not familiar with johnny unitas. Whats his story?

Back in '55, when the draft was 17 rounds, he was a mid round (9th or 10th) pick by the Steelers, who at that time were a team mired in mediocrity from it's inception, who was never even given a chance ot make the roster.

He was cut before the season without so much as being given a snap in practice.

He went on that year to play semi-pro ball and to work in construction.

He was signed the following year by the Colts and got a chance to play around mid season when the starter, George Shaw, was lost to injury.

He had a terrible first game, but after.....well the rest is history.

tmax63
11-26-2010, 12:09 PM
I have said and still say that Cassell still needs/deserves more time before final judgement is passed. He's still learning and with Charlie Weiss (thank goodness) as a real OC to teach him he's got room to grow. There are things you only learn on Sat. or Sun. and he hasn't played nearly as many years as he's practiced. He hasn't been a quick study/set the NFL on fire QB but he's steadily improved and I think he will continue to get better and end up being a very solid if not impressive QB who can lead a team as he gets more experience.