KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel felt he finally had little choice but to make a quarterback change for his stumbling 1-5 team.
Amid a slightly brewing quarterback controversy fueled more by starter Matt Cassel’s ineffectiveness than by backup Brady Quinn’s potential, Crennel announced Monday that Quinn was the new starter heading into Sunday’s game at Arrowhead against Oakland.
“During my evaluation and (while) trying to impact the team,” Crennel said, “I kind of felt that probably the most impactful move that I could make to get everybody’s attention was to change the quarterback. I think that will get everybody’s attention, and hopefully that impacts the team because the quarterback position, that’s the one that has the spotlight on it.”
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Cassel’s fall from grace happened rather quickly after his Pro Bowl season in 2010 when he helped lead the Chiefs to the playoffs. A hand injury derailed his season in week 10 in 2011, and this season has been nothing short of a disaster for Cassel. He committed 14 turnovers, including nine interceptions, during the Chiefs’ first five games, four of which were losses.
“I am not saying that Matt Cassel is the reason we are where we are because that brush, that stroke of that brush, is a broad stroke and everybody is included in it,” Crennel said. “…but my biggest deal was my gut telling me that I needed to impact the team by changing the dynamic, by having a different dynamic, and Brady Quinn is the guy that I want to go with.”
Crennel’s quarterback change ends some of the speculation on sports-talk radio in Kansas City which suggested that general manager Scott Pioli was dictating position decisions to Crennel, especially at quarterback. Pioli acquired Cassel, who had been Tom Brady’s backup with New England, in a trade in 2009, then signed him to a six-year, $62 million deal.
Cassel, though, now will have to adjust again to being a backup. Crennel indicated Monday he wasn’t about to have a short trigger with Quinn.
“I want (Quinn) to be the starting quarterback without having to look over his shoulder,” Crennel said, “so there is going to be no quick hook or anything like that.”
Cassel, talking to reporters after practice Monday, appeared subdued but said he respected the decision.
“Am I going to say I’m happy about the situation? Absolutely not,” Cassel said. “I’m frustrated. But I’m a team captain on this team and I care about this team. I’m a big boy and I’m not going to hang my head. I’m going to work hard like I always have.
“My role has changed and my role is to help Brady Quinn get ready to play. That’s my role as a team captain and that’s what I’ll do.”
Cassel and Quinn were informed of the switch at about 12:30 p.m. Monday, prior to practice. Cassel said he did not try to change Crennel’s mind by making a case for himself.
“It’s a fruitless situation because Romeo has made his decision and again, I can bitch and complain, but at the same time it is what it is,” Cassel said. “I’ll move forward and this team will move forward.
“He told me exactly what the situation was. As a player, I’m not happy with it. But I’ll support Brady.”
Cassel has been the target of intensifying fan criticism during the Chiefs’ horrendous start this season. He also was at the center of controversy two weeks ago when he suffered a concussion against the Ravens at Arrowhead, and offensive tackle Eric Winston sounded off against Chiefs fans he felt were cheering Cassel’s injury.
And despite his poor play, Cassel said he didn’t think he was in jeopardy of losing his job.
“I can’t say I saw it coming,” Cassel said. “But when you’re 1-5, and when you’re team’s struggling, your coach wants to find a way to spark the team. He felt this was the best thing to do.
“I’ve been in this role four or five years before so I’ll just continue to work hard. You’re not going to take the fight out of me. If the opportunity comes up again I’ll be ready to compete.”
Quinn, who started prior to the bye week in a 38-10 loss to Tampa Bay, chose his words carefully as he spoke with the media after Crennel’s decision.
Quinn said he wasn’t sure what his strengths are as the new Chiefs quarterback.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you right now. I really haven’t played enough to know right now.”
Now, though, Quinn will be in a similar situation as Cassel was — the pressure rests on him to rescue the Chiefs’ season.
“There’s always pressure,” he said. “Pressure is what you make it. Quarterbacks get used to the pressure. I think we do a good job with our coaching staff in terms of getting our players to focus on what’s in front of us and not what’s going on outside (the team).”