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Old 09-30-2012, 07:53 PM   #42
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Is it time to replace Matt Cassel?
September 30, 2012 8:09:43 PM PDT
By Bill Williamson

KANSAS CITY -- It is officially dump Matt Cassel season in Kansas City.

Cassel has never been overly popular in Kansas City. The Chiefsí playoff-hungry fan base has wished their team were in the hands of a more dynamic quarterback ever since Tom Bradyís injury replacement came to Kansas City along with general manager Scott Pioli in 2009.

My mailbag was flooded by Kansas City fans demanding Casselís benching Sunday, and Iím sure the subject will be the main course for columnists and talk radio in the Heartland in the wake of an embarrassing offensive showing by the Chiefs in a 37-20 defeat to San Diego on Sunday.

Expect pressure on Cassel to grow until he is either removed as the teamís quarterback or the team decides to move away from him after the season.

Much was expected from Kansas City this year, but with a quarter of the season over, playoff hopes are starting to fade as Cassel and the Chiefs are now 1-3. The Chiefs have been outscored by a league-worst 77 points in the first quarter, they havenít scored a touchdown on their opening drive since the 2010 season and they are the only team this season never to play with the lead.

After an inspired overtime win at New Orleans in Week 3, the Chiefs had the chance to tie San Diego for first in the AFC West. But Kansas City quickly showed themselves, the Chargers and their antsy fans that they were not ready to become a first-place team. Kansas City, which finished with six turnovers, committed three turnovers in the first quarter and trailed 17-0. Cassel threw three interceptions as the Chiefs were suffocated by a much improved, dangerous San Diego defense.

The truth is that the Chiefs' offensive line gave Cassel little time to work and Kansas Cityís running backs lost three fumbles, including two by beloved running back Jamaal Charles.

Kansas City right tackle Eric Winston said Sunday's poor performance was a failure by all 11 offensive players. He also believes ďa coupleĒ of Chiefs will likely take the brunt from the media. While Winston didnít say Casselís name, it's clear he's expecting to hear calls for Casselís removal.

Winston is right. It has already started. Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel was asked after the game if he is considering a quarterback change, and Cassel was asked about it in his media session that lasted less than 90 seconds Sunday. Crennel said he is not considering a change. He said he stuck with Charles despite his fumbles and he is sticking with his quarterback.

I spoke to former Kansas City running back Jackie Battle about Cassel, and he expects it to be a tough week for his former teammate.

ďI donít think people were always fair to Matt (in Kansas City),Ē Battle said. ďI like Matt. He can do a lot of things. He was my leader when I was with the Chiefs.Ē

San Diego safety Eric Weddle said he thinks Cassel is ďsuper athleticĒ and capable of winning games, but he acknowledged that falling behind 20-0 is tough on any quarterback.

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ďNext week, he will come out and be great and he will silence the critics,Ē Weddle said. ďThatís the way it is with quarterbacks.Ē

I think Crennel believes that and thatís why he is sticking with Cassel. Hereís another reason why Crennel wonít make a move: Who would be Casselís replacement? The basis of any position change -- especially one as colossal as quarterback -- is the belief in the replacement.

Does anybody believe Brady Quinn would be a better option than Cassel? What about second-year third stringer Ricky Stanzi? Are either of these players capable of turning the Chiefs around?

If you think so, youíre fooling yourself, but rational thinking is often thrown out the door when a team hasnít won a playoff game in 19 years.

If Cassel is pulled this early in the season, it will be a shame. He is the only quarterback available who gives this team a chance to win. He hasnít been awful this season. Yes, he had a poor showing Sunday. But so did the rest of the offense. This offense was the No. 1-ranked offense in the NFL through three weeks and Cassel was a big reason why the Chiefs won at New Orleans. After Week 3, Cassel was a respectable No. 16 in ESPNís Total QBR.

Teams bench quarterbacks when they are completely lost. Cassel is not lost. He is just not good enough right now to be the difference-maker, a reason why this could be his last season in Kansas City.

The Chiefs have the makings of a good program and they have a lot of talent. If they donít make the playoffs and Casselís play doesnít improve, Iím sure the team will seriously consider making a move and drafting a quarterback.

That is fair. If Cassel can win this year, then wait to make the change. The Chiefs decided to build around him this year. If it doesnít work, itís time to pull the plug on him. Just donít do it now.

I think Pioli should have his scouts jump inside USC QB Matt Barkleyís mind. They must find out everything they can about West Virginiaís Geno Smith, Arkansasí Tyler Wilson and Tennesseeís Tyler Bray.

Itís definitely time for the Chiefs to be thinking about a different quarterback for the future other than Cassel. But the future is not now.
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