Warpaint Illustrated: Judge Cassel by wins and losses

By Nick Athan
October 16, 2010

Not known for the being a defensive man, Head Coach Todd Haley has sure been fighting the battle for his embattled quarterback this week. With the Chiefs set to shrug off last Sunday�s loss in Indy, everyone seems to be picking on Haley�s quarterback. So what�s the beef?

Your starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, is 3-1. He�s guided your team to the top of the AFC West and has a 1.5-game lead entering Sunday�s road test in Houston. And all anyone wants to talk about is that back up, Brodie Croyle, should get a chance.  

Well it�s NOT going to happen.

In Cassel�s defense, it appears that everyone has forgotten he’s 3-1 on the season as a starter.  And his team has a 1.5-game lead in the AFC West. And did we fail to mention he signed a $63 million contract a year ago?

This week however, it appears that Cassel has a golden opportunity to rise above his critics. The Houston Texans pose no threat in either sacking the Chiefs’ embattled quarterback. Nor have they shown any signs that they can prevent a team from running up huge numbers in the passing department. So again, what’s the beef with Cassel?

This week Head Coach Todd Haley has gone out of his way to defend Cassel.  

He might consider buying up advertising space on the local television stations in Kansas City that’s running one political advertisement after another. At least the tone on the airwaves would be consistent with two political sides battling back and forth.

Listen, I�m firmly on the Brodie Croyle bandwagon. In six seasons with the Chiefs, he�s never had a solid offensive line to protect his frail body, nor a group of receivers that can make catches in open spaces. Yes, they drop the occasional pass. But that�s life in the NFL.

The trump card though is the Chiefs’ running backs could become even better under Croyle. He�s a solid play-action quarterback who has good mobility. And that rocket arm has enough kick to it that he can get the ball into the hands of his backs quicker than Cassel. But he�s also great at surveying the field and executing those dump off passes so they hits his backs in stride. That could be the difference between a five-yard gain and a 60-yard gain.

On the other hand, Cassel�s biggest issue is his inability to read defenses. If something is covered he still tries to squeeze the ball into a pinhole. He doesn�t have the arm strength or the accuracy to do that.

But none of that matters because Haley isn�t going to make a change at quarterback this weekend. And even though it�s obvious one should be forthcoming, Haley has little choice to do anything but to continue beating the drum that Cassel is improving.

That�s what a good head coach should do with a struggling player. And it�s a familiar tune. He did the same thing this week with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, the goat of the Indy game.

Still Haley is in a tough position. If his team can keep winning games, he knows the Chiefs can seize control of the AFC West. But the Cassel factor could prevent that from happening.

So that�s why Sunday�s game might be the most critical four quarters Cassel has played in his brief Chiefs career. The Texans are terrible in pass defense. I�m not even going to share the pitiful numbers. But they�re as bad as the Chiefs have been in that category in ten plus seasons.

Enough said.

Haley has become a gambler of sorts and he�s betting the house that Cassel can be the quarterback who leads the Chiefs to the playoffs this season. On Sunday, both men are are going to be under the microscope.

If Cassel fails, Haley is going to have to consider recanting his endorsement.

Either way it�s a risky proposition that could backfire or it could pay huge dividends. But Haley, to his credit, has done the impossible with this football team. And right now, he�s the NFL Coach of the Year.

So for this game, let�s give him the benefit of the doubt because most of his decisions have paid off.

On Sunday, the Chiefs should defeat the Texans. They�re not as good as the Chiefs defensively or on special teams. True they have a better quarterback in Matt Shaub. But that�s irrelevant and his play won�t affect the outcome of the game.

Instead, it will fall on Cassel. And something tells me he�s more than due for a great game.

So who wins?

Chiefs 24
Texans 21

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