Fans may be worried about Matt Cassel's body language, but the Chiefs aren't.
By SEAN KEELERFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Justin Christian is a Kansas City Chiefs fan and a body-language specialist, so this month has been a little more, shall we say, conflicted than most. As a rooting interest, watching this team has turned Sunday afternoons into three hours of taking a fork to your unprotected eyeballs.
But as a case study?
As a case study, from a purely clinical standpoint, Romeo Crennel's 0-2 cadre are kind of, um … fascinating.
"Pursed lips are a sign that a person is breaking down, he can't take any more," Christian said, referring to Matt Cassel's postgame news conference after the Chiefs' 35-17 stinker of a setback at Buffalo last weekend. "He ended (the interview) with pursed lips as well. So you could tell the game was extremely hard on him, emotionally."
See? Who says the guy isn't invested in this bunch?
"When you're out there and you're playing, you know, you're just trying to collect yourself and go to the next play," the Chiefs' quarterback said Wednesday. "Unless I'm screaming or yelling or doing something like that, and pretty much I'm letting you know my body language (then). At the same time, there (are) a lot of things going on in my head throughout the course of a game."
Lately, we're guessing, a lot of those things aren't fit for print on a family website. But we digress.
This is a question of body language, or more specifically, if Cassel's perceived funks during the choppy waters on board the S.S. Pioli — the sideline shots from last weekend in Orchard Park didn't paint a pretty picture — are actually making things worse.
"If a player exhibits negative emotions, those emotions are transferred to other players. It's intensified as the leader of the group," continued Christian, a Topeka native and University of Kansas undergrad who last year became a certified body-language specialist.
"I strongly believe that Cassel's lack of ability here was a major contributing factor to the (Buffalo) loss."
Well alrighty, then.
Now again, Justin's a local, and it has become awfully hard for anybody local to be objective when it comes to Cassel, even in the name of science. So we seek a second opinion, sending pictures of Cassel in recent game action to Dr. Jack Brown, a body-language specialist in Las Vegas.
Of particular interest to Brown is a photo of Cassel on the ground, having been knocked to his backside, looking flabbergasted after an interception.
"When he's on the field with his hands on his thighs and he's staying on his butt a lot longer than everyone else when he's not injured, that's the equivalent of whining," Brown said. "Which is probably not at all wanted by his teammates."
Yeah, but here's the thing: His teammates insist they don't interpret Cassel's behavior that way at all.
"That's definitely not what we see," linebacker Justin Houston allowed. "When you mess up, you're going to be down on yourself. I know I mess up a lot. After that play, I'll be mad at myself, but (when) the next play is about to happen, I forget about it.
"He's very emotional about this team. He's always talking about motivating this team. So we've got each other's back, no matter what's going on."
And to his credit, Cassel isn't ripping into his peers the way, say, Chicago's Jay Cutler, whose It's-everybody's-fault-I-can't-beat-Green-Bay-but-mine act elicited groans in the Windy City. Both Christian and Brown believe in something called "isopraxism," which is basically a fancy term for why we follow the pack, whether it's into the swimming pool or onto an otherwise empty dance floor. Research shows that the higher up in authority or status the leader of said pack is, the quicker that leader's emotions — good, bad, or indifferent — transfer to the rest of the group.
In other words, your starting quarterback's feelings, no shock, tend to resonate a lot stronger than most of the rest of the gang. Mark Sanchez's mood swings in New York got to the point where in 2010, the former USC standout instigated a light-heartened system within the Jets locker room in which teammates could fine him if he showed poor body language during practice.
When a reporter asked if Cassel if he'd ever consider something similar, he dismissed the premise.
"I'm upbeat, there's no doubt about it," the quarterback countered. "You can see that. You can ask anybody in this locker room how I am throughout the course of the week. I'm upbeat. And throughout the course of a game, you'll see me walking up and down the sidelines talking to those guys.
"You know, when you come off to the sideline and things don't always go right, you have to punt, or whatever the case might be. You're not going to be the rah-rah guy and try to cheer them on. They know what's going on — we're all professionals here. So really, for me, it's about getting focused for the next series, telling these guys we've got to go one play at a time, and move on."
Cassel wasn't smiling when he said that last bit. Read into it what you will.