Cassel on possibility of benching: ‘You can’t play scared’
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
Facing the biggest crisis of his career, Matt Cassel showed no weakness Wednesday when he answered questions about his tenuous hold on the Chiefs starting quarterback position. Cassel said if he fails in Sunday’s game against Baltimore, and the Chiefs have to replace him with Brady Quinn, it won’t be because of any lack of confidence.
“Throughout my career I’ve always had ups and downs,” Cassel said. “Everybody knows that I’m a grinder. I’m going to go out and grind each and every day and I’m going to try to get better.
“I try not to focus on what’s being said on the outside and I try to focus on how I can get better as a player. I know there’s room for improvement and I’m going to give everything I can to make those improvements and get better.”
Coach Romeo Crennel has said that while Cassel will start against the Ravens, Quinn may at some point replace him. Crennel also suggested he might give Quinn some first-team snaps in practice, though Quinn said his workload didn’t increase Wednesday.
“My reps have been the exact same as they had before,” Quinn said.
Until this week, the Chiefs had shown unfailing loyalty to Cassel since trading for him in 2009. He was handpicked by general manager Scott Pioli, who was then new to the Chiefs and had worked with Cassel when they were together in New England.
The Chiefs haven’t acquired a strong challenger to Cassel and there’s never been any suggestion he might get benched at any point in his four seasons.
That changed this week with Crennel and the Chiefs facing desperate times. They are 1-3 and haven’t had a lead during a game yet.
“I’m going to do what I think gives us the best chance to win,” Crennel said. “Hypotheticals about what if this happens or what if that happens, I don’t know what if anything happens. I’m going to wait until we get to the game and we’ll see what happens and then we’ll go forward.”
Cassel’s play in no small factor in the Chiefs’ dismal record. His 10 turnovers are tied for the NFL high with Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.
Cassel has had some rough times as Chiefs quarterback, most notably his first season as their starter in 2009 and a miserable ending to the 2010 season. His popularity in Kansas City among Chiefs fans has dipped — he was loudly booed during a celebrity softball game last summer at Kauffman Stadium — this is the first time Cassel’s play has been publicly questioned by someone affiliated with the Chiefs.
Crennel met with Cassel this week to discuss the issue.
“Matt is a professional,” Crennel said. “He takes it to heart. He understands we need to get better as a football team and we need to play better.”
Cassel indicated he wouldn’t be distracted in his preparation or during Sunday’s game.
“I don’t look over my shoulder,” he said. “You can’t do that. As a quarterback, you go out there and compete each and every day and you try to get better each and every day. For me, I don’t look over my shoulder. I just go out there and try to play my position.
“You can’t play scared. You can’t play tentative. I have tunnel vision. I go out and try to get better each and every day. I know as the quarterback of this team I’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the football. That comes first. I take full responsibility for that. We all need to take better care of the football and if we do, then we’ll be in more of these football games and we’ll be a better football team because of it. It starts with me, like I’ve said. I’m working each and every day to get better and I will get better.”
Quinn is familiar with the feeling. He was Cleveland’s starting quarterback for parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Then he was traded to Denver, where he didn’t play in a game during either of the last two seasons. He then signed with the Chiefs in the spring, but hasn’t played in any of their four games.
“That’s what you have to do,” Quinn said. “If you’re a quarterback a lot of times when things aren’t going well, you get more blame than you should and when you throw six touchdown passes, you get more credit than you should take.”