Cassel gets second chance as starter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel’s big shakeup to get the attention of his snoozing team – switching to quarterback Brady Quinn over Matt Cassel last week – was an experiment that didn’t even make it past the first quarter Sunday.

Quinn suffered a head injury against the Raiders and was replaced by Cassel, and on Tuesday, Crennel was forced to announce he’d be returning to Cassel again as his starter this Thursday night at San Diego.

Quinn was evaluated by doctors Monday, and it was determined Tuesday he would not be cleared in time to play this week.

Re-enter Cassel, the much-maligned $63 million quarterback who now could be auditioning to get his old job back.

“I don’t look at it that way,” Cassel said after Tuesday’s practice. “Like I said last week, no matter what my position is, I’m the same guy.

“I think that’s the reason why I was able to go in there Sunday and execute and play at a high level. It’s because my approach was good, and I was ready.”

High level? Cassel was 20 of 30 for 218 yards, with 66 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter after the Raiders had put the game away at 26-9. Cassel also had an interception, and lost a critical fumble deep in his own territory.

But Cassel’s inflated view of his Sunday effort aside, he said he’s not bothered that he has his job back, at least temporarily, based on Quinn’s injury, and not by winning over Crennel again.

“It doesn’t matter,” Cassel said. “It doesn’t affect me at all. Like I said last week, the coach made his decision (about starting Quinn). Was I in agreement with it? No. But I’m the captain of this team and I embrace that role, and I will try to get ready and help this team in whatever way I can.”

Offensive tackle Eric Winston, who has been quick to rise to Cassel’s defense this season, also said it shouldn’t matter that Cassel got the job again mainly by default.

“We all pretty much got our start in this league coming into games we weren’t necessarily selected to start in,” Winston said. “ You have limited chances in this league and you have to take advantage of them. Your film is your resume, so you better do you job well.

“I don’t think he’s any different. He’s looking at this as an opportunity and he will handle it like a pro.”

Crennel, naturally, is hoping for something a bit more – a much-needed spark.

“Sometimes a second chance energizes a guy,” Crennel said. “Matt is a team guy. He wants the team to do well. In whatever role he was in … he didn’t like it (being benched), but he said, ‘I’m going to do my job, I’m a Chief, and I’m going to be ready to play if I’m called on,’ and that’s the way he prepared during the week.

“That’s the way he’s prepared this week. He knows he’s going to have to play, and he’s going to do the best he can. We have to help him as well …”

For openers, the Chiefs and Cassel have to avoid the further humiliation of not having held a lead in regulation through seven games, a dubious feat last accomplished by Philadelphia in the NFL in 1940.

“You can define it (humiliation) whatever way you want,” Cassel said. “We just understand that we have to do a better job of scoring when we have our chances. We have to put ourselves in a better position throughout the game.”

How does Cassel plan to snap that hideous streak?

“Score more points,” he said. “We’ve got to execute. It sounds ridiculous for me to have to stand here and say that but we have to execute early in the game, put a drive together, and have some intensity. I’m not saying we lack that (intensity) all the time but really that’s what it comes down to. In the NFL, one play or a negative play or a penalty puts you in a bad spot where maybe you can’t score.

“But if we can score and score early, I think it’s a confidence thing. If you get a lead you are going to play with more confidence. That’s what we have to do.”

Of course, it would help if Cassel and the offense would stop turning the ball over – they lead the league with 25 turnovers.

“A lot of times you look at it, you think it’s a lot easier to do,” Cassel said. “A lot of times it’s been something funky happening like a tipped ball or miscommunication on the outside. It’s about all of us just plugging in and taking care of the ball.

“That starts with me.”

And Cassel’s second chance starts Thursday night as well.