KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s fun to throw darts at Matt Cassel — he’s tall, he’s convenient, he’s inaccurate, he gets this glazed look in his eyes like a deer just before the truck hits it — but here’s the juice: The guy isn’t the underlying problem here.
The problem is Option B. Or Option C.
Or rather, the realistic lack thereof.
Take the second quarter — take it, please — of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 37-20 setback at the hands of the San Diego Chargers, the franchise’s fourth 0-2 start at home since 2000. With the hosts down double-digits (again), the natives at Arrowhead Stadium getting restless (again), the Chiefs were desperate for some kind of jump-start, some sliver of hope.
Here was Cassel’s response: Two completions on six attempts, 28 yards, zero touchdowns, one fumble, one sack, one Pick-6. If there was ever a time for a quick hook, folks, this was it.
Brady Quinn, Cassel’s backup, stretched. Brady Quinn put a helmet on.
Cassel stayed in the cockpit.
Halftime: Bolts 27, Chiefoonery 6. “Boo” doesn’t seem to quite cover all the bases, does it?
“Turnovers have been killing us,” Cassel would offer later, “and I myself have to take better care of the ball. Obviously, it starts with me.”
Obviously. Hey, whatever you think of the guy — and based on the call-in shows and message boards in the metro, that ain’t much — he’s stood in front of microphones and taken it. And this train-wreck is barely a month old.
“It’s not just one person,” left tackle Branden Albert snarled. “So don’t put the whole thing on Matt.”
We won’t. Nor should you. After all, boats made of cardboard aren’t built for long treks through the choppier waters of the AFC West. The Chiefs are leaking in so many places right now, it’s not funny. They’re averaging nearly four turnovers per game (15 in four tilts). They’re coming out of the weekend with a team turnover ratio of minus-13. They’ve given up 13 sacks, or more than three per contest. Their extra-point snaps sail high; whenever they’ve actually forced the opposition to punt, they’ve allowed an average of 20 yards a return. They’ve been outscored, 41-6, in the first quarter.
“I know there (are) going to be some questions about the quarterback,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “I’m staying with the quarterback, and I stayed with him during the course of the game.”
“Well, because I think he still can do some good things,” Crennel said.
No it isn’t. It’s because this is your alternative: Tossing Quinn to the wolves.
Quinn, whose record as an NFL starting quarterback is 3-9, which makes Cassel’s 19-24 mark look positively Elwayesque in comparison. Quinn, who has two game-winning drives on his pro ledger — and one of those came here, in December 2009, when a playing-out-the-string 5-11 Cleveland squad rallied to take down a limping-down-the-stretch 4-12 Chiefs bunch. Quinn, who … oh, the heck with it. You watched the preseason.
“Whether I was considering (a change) or not doesn’t make a difference,” Crennel said. “It’s hypothetical. I didn’t make the change, and I’m staying with that.”
And chances are — brace yourself here — he’s going to ride Cassel until he breaks, because he thinks Cassel gives him the best chance to actually win football games.
Feel free to laugh or cry. It’s your choice.
“They can keep booing (Matt),” wideout Steve Breaston said of Kansas City fans. “But I know he’s going to keep bouncing back.”
Know this: Cassel’s going to keep coming back, time and again, through thin and more thin — not so much because of loyalty as the lack of a viable alternative. Which brings the finger pointing, yet again, back up to the men in the suits, back to general manager Scott Pioli and his master plan.
It was Pioli’s idea to bring Cassel in from New England as one of his pet projects. It was Pioli’s idea to ink him to a six-year contract, worth reportedly more than $10 million per season, through 2014. It was Pioli’s idea to keep Quinn and Ricky Stanzi around as insurance.
It was Pioli’s idea to give Cassel as much rope as he needed. Now a 1-3 season hangs in the balance.