Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is Matt Cassel Really the 22nd Best QB?

According to to Ron Jaworksi's recent quarterback rankings, Matt Cassel is the 22nd player on the list. It should be mentioned that there were only 30 players on the list - since Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have no accumulated stats yet and are expected to be starters, they were left off the list; also, Tim Tebow had the honor of being the only back up QB to make the list.

But is Cassel really that bad?

I know Chiefs fans aren't that fond of Cassel at times, but to have Cassel in the bottom third of all NFL quarterbacks, just a year removed from a Pro Bowl season, seems a little low in my opinion. Here is Jaw's breakdown of his opinions on Cassel:

“Cassel is at his best in a managed offense that features run personnel, run formations and the play-action pass game. Play-action primarily gives the quarterback 'either-or' defined reads. Cassel is very good in that scenario. ... Cassel throws the ball better to the inside -- digs, hooks and throws like that -- than he does to the outside. That’s the way it is with quarterbacks with limited arm strength.

“In addition, the deep throws often come on first down. Play-action is almost always featured. As is six- or seven-man pass-protection schemes. ... You give Matt Cassel a solid run game, a good offensive line, room in the pocket to deliver the football comfortably, and he can be a very efficient NFL starter. That’s what he is. He’s a function of the team around him. And he needs those pieces in place working effectively.”

This seems like a hard but fair assessment of Cassel, but is being a "function of the team around him" a reason to drop him so low on the list?  

To answer that, I suppose we'll have to look at the list itself. The eight players listed below Cassel are: 

Tim Tebow: 30
Blaine Gabbert: 29
Christian Ponder: 28
Matt Flynn: 27
Matt Moore: 26
Kevin Kolb: 25
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 24
Mark Sanchez: 23

While I'm sure there are many other fans from other teams wondering how Cassel is ranked above some of the quarterbacks listed above, I can see the case for Cassel to fit into this group. Now for the eight quarterbacks listed higher than Cassel: 

Carson Palmer: 21
Sam Bradford: 20
Andy Dalton: 19
Matt Hasselbeck: 18
Josh Freeman: 17
Alex Smith: 16
Cam Newton: 15
Matt Stafford: 14

First off, how is Stafford only ranked 14? He threw for over 5,000 yards!

Second, Cassel's place on this list makes much more sense after seeing the players ranked ahead of him. Sitting on those 21-14 are 6 first round draft picks, 5 of which were number one overall picks (Palmer, Bradford, Smith, Newton, Stafford). If Stafford is only ranked 8 spots ahead of Cassel, I feel much better about Cassel's spot - granted, 8 spots constitutes nearly a third of the list. 

Jaw's ranking of Cassel probably has a lot to do about the question marks revolving around him. He has the offensive weapons around him to succeed, yet he struggled mightily last season, only throwing one more TD than INT before being lost for the season in a defeat to the Denver Tebows Broncos. 

If Cassel wants more respect, like to not be ranked the lowest of any AFC West quarterback, then he has to put his money where the Chiefs mouth is. While Cassel might not have the talent to crawl up too far on this list by the end of the season, I would trade wins for projected quarterback ranking slots in a heartbeat. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Will It Take: Chiefs Playoff Hopes

In 2010, the Chiefs made the playoffs due to a number and variety of reasons. A few of these reasons include: an improved offense lead by the league's best rushing offense and an efficient Matt Cassel behind center; a surprisingly stingy defense that included two rookie safeties - Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis - as well as a resurgent Derrick Johnson and ever-present Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr.

The team had been on the threshold of figuring things out towards the end of 2009, and due to a combination of hard work and good luck, the Chiefs found themselves in the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season.

But things can change in a hurry in the NFL.

The constant that helped lead the team to the playoffs was the constant that kept the team out of the playoffs in 2011: injuries. In 2010, the Chiefs were one of the luckiest teams as far as injuries were concerned. A year later, the Chiefs regressed towards the mean, in perhaps the cruelest of fashions. Losing Charles, Berry and Moeaki in consecutive weeks would handicap any team, but the Chiefs weren't eliminated from the playoff race until week 16.

Resiliency is something you cannot accuse the Chiefs of not possessing. But 2012 is a new season, and new keys to success exist. Not all of these will need to be reached, but if the majority are not, the team cannot hope to rebound back to the postseason.

Matt Cassel

Everything will start and end with the play of Cassel this season. He is the quarterback, and he will dictate how the offense performs. In 2010, Cassel played in 15 games completing 58.2% of his passes for 3,116 yards, 27 TDs and 7 INTs. In 2011, Cassel only appeared in 9 games before being lost for the season, completing 59.5% of his passes for 1,713 yards, 10 TDs and 9 INTs. Let's hope 2011 is not the Cassel Chiefs fans will see in 2012.

Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki

Two years ago, Charles and Berry were Pro Bowlers and Moeaki was a tight end on the rise. Now, all three players are returning from ACL tears and subsequent surgeries. While we would love for them to all return to their pre-injury levels, there is no guarantee that will happen. The season will greatly depend on how well they perform after missing the majority of last season.

Stanford Routt

Routt is replacing a fan favorite and vastly underrated Brandon Carr on the right side of the defense this season. I say underrated because he was never talked about much outside of Kansas City until free agency hit. He was then given a massive contract by the Dallas Cowboys. Routt, brought in as a free agent from the Oakland Raiders, will be asked to fill that void. Chiefs fans knew what to expect out of Carr, but Routt still has to prove he can fill Carr's shows after his disappointing performance last season as the number one cornerback on the Raiders defense.

Brain Daboll

It will be Daboll's responsibility to figure out what our offense will look like. Bill Muir, the offensive coordinator from last season, never seemed to figure that out, and Todd Haley is no longer here to have his blue print on the offense. The Chiefs have a lot of parts to their offense: a good and now deep wide receiver corps including Dwayne Bowe (assuming he signs his franchise tender) and Jonathan Baldwin, both former first round draft picks. He also has Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis in the backfield. Accompanied by a solid offensive line, Daboll has a lot of weapons at his disposal, and it will ultimately come down to Cassel (Above) to determine the success.

Romeo Crennel

Many people don't think about there being a lot of pressure on Crennel, but there is. Crennel was hired as the safe choice and to offer continuity to a team on the verge of being a perennial playoff contender. But I have kept it no secret that Crennel's individual coaching performance throughout the last three games left a lot to be desired. Even in wins, decisions were made that reminded us all that he hadn't done this for a while. The defense performed very well under Crennel, and that is perhaps the reason Pioli had enough confidence to let Crennel remain defensive coordinator, but game situations seemed to give Crennel trouble. Hopefully that was just the rust of not being a head coach for a couple of years and Crennel has a better grasp on those scenarios this season. But Crennel has a lot of talent, and he will be held ultimately responsible for the outcome of this season.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Something to Prove

Scott Pioli has built the current Chiefs team the way that he intended to. Bringing in the right personnel into the right system and the right schemes. He kept the pieces from the former regime that met that criteria and wasn't afraid to make examples of ones that were not. While some of Pioli's rebuilding came through free agency - Steve Breaston, Eric Winston, etc. - he concentrated his efforts on building his team in April via the draft.

While Pioli's 2009 draft class has been deemed by many sports analysts as a failure, I don't think many people are aware of how much Pioli's following draft classes have yet to prove.

Many were quick to crown the 2010 draft class a success after their first season. And why not? The team was resurrected from the depths of the AFC West to take the division crown for the first time since 2003 and the contributions of the rookie class - from Eric Berry to Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki and Kendrick Lewis - the rookie class was praised far and wide. Two years later, however, this class still has a lot to prove.

Eric Berry, after a Pro Bowl rookie season, still only has that season to hang his hat on after spending last season on Injured Reserve with a torn ACL. The same is true for Tony Moeaki. After promising rookie seasons, no fan can be certain if they'll be back to their rookie form. A lot can change in a season, and the NFL is littered with stories of what-could-have-been with players who's promising careers were cut short by injury, or how they were never the same. They have something to prove.

But above all, it is the 2011 class that has something to prove. Only one player - Justin Houston - lived up to expectations. The rest - either because of lack of opportunity or because of lack of production - did not. But even Justin Houston has the same statistical doubt as Berry and Moeaki; only having one season under his belt.

The face of doubt is best represented by Jonathan Baldwin. Rodney Hudson, the Chiefs 2nd round pick, was never given an opportunity last year and will have the chance to prove himself in 2012. But Baldwin was given the chance to compete for a spot right away, and instead got his hand broken by Thomas Jones (who I can't help but blame for doing something so stupid and then being so awful during the season. If you're going to get into training camp fights with teammates and cause injuries, then you have to put up Steve Smith type numbers). Baldwin then went on to a lackluster season that only featured a few brief glimpses that showed the type of player he could be.

The 2012 season will be a very important season for the Chiefs. Everyone from the General Manager, to the Head Coach, to the 2010 and 2011 draft classes, to the quarterback, to the team itself has something to prove. And Chiefs fans who believe in their team want to be proven right.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Everyone already knows that the one year anniversary of the Joplin, MO tornado came and went. Everyone knows that it was an emotional time for the town that had seen so much suffering over the past year and that the term rebuilding, while hopeful, was still in the infancy stage of the process. President Obama gave the commencement for Joplin High School's graduation, a class that had spent it's senior year in a state of shock and taking classes in a section of Northpark Mall, the main shopping hub in Joplin. 

Normal is something that everyone in the city wants, and in a small way, that's what the Kansas City Chiefs tried to bring to Joplin last week. While a professional sports team visiting a city for anything other than a road game seems everything but normal, it's what the Chiefs brought with them that is key. 

They brought with them memories of the devastation they saw last year, in the wake of the disaster, but more importantly, they brought people. People to build homes for those that lost them more than a year ago, people to help, slowly but surely, rebuild not a town but a community one house at a time. That might not seem like a lot when you see what's still left of the damage when you travel down Range Line, or see many empty blocks worth of destroyed trees that are all that remains of what used to be houses and businesses. But when you are just seeking normal, that is a lot.

I'm from the Joplin community, and attended college in Joplin. I am thankful for the Chiefs, the Rams, and all the other countless volunteers that went unpublished that have taken the time to help out Joplin. Thank you.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chiefs Realignment

It's no secret that the city of Los Angeles wants a professional football team. They are the second largest city, have the second largest market, two NHL teams (counting Anaheim as part of LA), two MLB teams, two NBA teams, an MLS team, but the most popular sport in America is inexplicably absent from this list. But LA is looking to change that.

LA, of course, have had their NFL teams in the past. The Raiders, Chargers and Rams have once called the city of Angels home, but both chose to leave for other markets. And while no current NFL team is looking to move and it would be very difficult to create a new team in the seemingly perfect 32 team format, LA is being proactive in their approach to lure a team to the city.

Companies have already committed millions of dollars to the building of the stadium and in the promotion of bringing a team to the city. The state is endorsing it because of the high unemployment rate California has suffered over the last few years during this recession. There is even a website that goes over every detail include economic impact and artist renderings of the stadium.

I know what you're thinking: what does this have to do with the Chiefs?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Winner Winner, Cassel Dinner

Mike Ransdell

The love affair between Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel and new Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has perhaps reached its climax over the past week. But with every love story, there is a beginning that needs to be told.

It was clear that Bill Muir's time had come. If Muir hadn't retired, he would have been let go from his role of offensive coordinator. Muir was never able to get a grasp of the Chiefs offense to where it was effective or efficient. The fans new change was coming, they just didn't know who.

Then along came Daboll. 

When Daboll was first hired, his mission was not to fix the quarterback like Charlie Weiss. His mission seemed far different from that; it seemed that Daboll was hired for the purpose of praising and defending Cassel.

In the Chiefs press conference after Daboll was hired, the new OC said "I have a lot of confidence in Matt Cassel. I've watched him on tape and I know the player." Cassel responded with "I’m excited. I think it will be a good fit for us. He’s very detailed. He was very meticulous about his work and he expected a lot out of his players. I was always impressed with him as a coach.”

The compliments didn't stop there. Anytime that Cassel's ability at the quarterback position was brought into question - and many times when they weren't - Daboll would come to the rescue and defend his starting quarterback. That's what an offensive coordinator is supposed to do, but Daboll might have officially beat the Cassel drum a little too hard this time. 

The conversation started off as many of Daboll's do concerning Cassel, repeating how he has a lot of confidence in him. What came afterwards is interesting, accurate, slightly manipulative, and downright humorous. 

“He’s been a winner. He’s had two 10-plus win seasons and I did a study just this offseason about 10-plus-win quarterbacks, which is what you’re defined by. There have been nine of them the last four years that have had two or more 10-plus-win seasons. Matt is one of them, the others being (Tom) Brady, (Drew) Brees, (Aaron) Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli (Manning), (Joe) Flacco, (Matt) Ryan."

The rest of the conversation was the usual pro-Cassel rhetoric, but the above paragraph is what has captured the attention of the Chiefs fans community. While the statement above is true, let's tap the breaks a little bit and evaluate.

Cassel had no problem saying he believes to be in the same group as the rival quarterbacks from his division - which includes Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer - and frankly, you want that kind of confidence from your quarterback, even if it's faked. But for your offensive coordinator to put you in the same echelon as the best quarterbacks in the NFL is either sweet or stupid.

Brady, Brees, Rodgers, both Mannings and Roethlisberger all have rings. Flacco has more playoff wins then he knows what to do with. Ryan is the only other quarterback on that list besides Cassel to not have a playoff win. But to Cassel's credit, he's only had one chance compared to Ryan's three (yes, that was sarcasm). 

So Cassel has two 10-win seasons over the past four years, but one playoff appearance. This is unthinkable when you associate Cassel's name with the others on the list, but once you see that Cassel has a career 28-26 record, you see that Cassel is almost the exception to the rule. 

In my opinion, it's time to put up or shut up for Cassel. I want to see him succeed, but I don't want to hear about how he is better than how he played last year. Having a new offensive coordinator every season can't be easy, and is surely detrimental to Cassel's development within an annually-changing playbook. But until Cassel shows me something other than what I remember from last season, I, along with all other Chiefs fans, am going to be skeptical. 

As the King once said: a little less conversation, a little more action please. 

Chiefs sign Alex Tanney

I know I've gotten internet now, but unfortunately the installation wasn't accompanied by an increase of free time. This week should be different so, of course, I'd like to start with the biggest Chiefs news from the past week: the signing of Chiefs savior Alex Tanney.

Tanney, in his collegiate career at Monmouth played in 47 games at Monmouth completing 1,205 of 1,756 pass attempts (68.6 pct.). He set an NCAA Division III record, throwing for 14,249 yards and an NCAA record with 157 touchdowns with just 30 interceptions.

How he didn't make the Bills roster after being signed to their rookie training camp is a mystery to me. I mean, how does the ability to hit both cross bars of a field goal post from 50 yards out not translate to being able to hit a moving target through zone coverage?

Obviously, 'savior' is the wrong word for Tanney. I'd be surprised if he makes the team past training camp - maybe a shot at the practice squad. But at least the Chiefs can say they have the Harlem Globetrotter of quarterbacks.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Catching Up


The little red 'X' on the bottom right hand screen of my laptop has been replaced with a little globe intersecting the two equally tiny computer screens. This - for those who have also spent days of helpless boredom staring at you screen unable to steal a nearby neighbors internet and settle for playing spider solitaire until you finally just fall asleep at the keys - is perhaps the sweetest sight one can see; it is the modern equivalent of laying eyes on the Lost Ark or a double rainbow.

That feeling is what I finally experienced in the first time in two weeks (in a related statement, I wouldn't wish SuddenLink on my worst enemy; OK, maybe a Raiders fan).

My fortnight spent in the Stone Age was tough. I used up all my cell phone's data plan within what seemed like the first couple of hours. I was only able to catch snippets of what was happening with the Chiefs, and the world in general, when I felt brave enough to visit sites in the know while at work.

If any of you thought I fell off the face of the planet, you'd be close. I'm in West Virginia. I'll be here all summer but will (thankfully), be back in SEC country - meanwhile, I have returned to Big 12 country (huh?) -  come September, hopefully before the NFL season kicks off at Arrowhead.

But now that I am back up and running, I will quickly try to catch up on some of what has been going on or discussed about the Chiefs during my excruciatingly long (alright, I guess it wasn't that bad) hiatus.

Personnel Preference

  • Barry Richardson signed with the Rams.
    • Let them deal with him.
  • Wallace Gilberry's going to the Bucs.
    • Hate to see him go, but Allen Bailey rendered him expendable.
  • Dwayne Bowe is still holding out.
    • Bowe is wanting to get paid, but Pioli is never quick on opening up the purse strings. Neither is Clark. Expect this to continue late into the Summer.
Organized Team Activities (OTA's)
  • Jonathan Baldwin's catch
    • Baldwin's described "alley-opp" type catch in OTAs from Cassel over the coverage of new Chief Stanford Routt was all the rage on Twitter from media covering the team last week. While I didn't see the catch nor will I ever see the catch since it was apparently not recorded, I just have to say that Baldwin's catch reaching around Brian Dawkins and propping the ball against the back of the now-retired safety was the best catch I ever witnessed live. When that catch was immediately compared to the one last week on the wow-scale, it got me really excited about last year's first round pick. And with Bowe holding out, it's time for Baldwin to do some catching up of his own with Cassel to finally develop some chemistry that was lacking last season.
  • Peyton Hillis talking about Jamaal Charles
    • Hillis is saying all the right things when it comes to talking about his future counterpart, Jamaal Charles. Charles looks to be back soon, but Hillis is seeing the snaps. While Hillis might be genuine in his talk about how he is looking forward to being the Robin to Charles's Batman, I'm not quite sure if I believe him. He is on a one year contract and is looking to showcase his skills this season. It's hard to impress, however, when you're paired with 6.4 ypc Charles. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Hillis fan and am really looking forward to seeing him in the backfield for the Chiefs dragging defenders with him; but who could be happy knowing you're going from the pride of Cleveland in 2010 to Thomas Jone's replacement?
  • The two tight end sets
    • In a copycat league, the two tight end set looks to take fire in the NFL. What Bill Belichick started in 2010 but what no one seemed to notice until 2011, having two athletic, pass-catching tight ends in your offense creates mismatches all across the board. Now, many following the Chiefs like to look at the Kevin Boss-Tony Moeaki tandem and say that's the Chiefs version of Gronkowski-Hernandez. Let me just go ahead and say that as much as I like the Boss-Moeaki combo, it's no Gronk-Hernandez. At least not yet. While I think that the brakes should be tapped on such comparisons, I do like to see how well Boss is doing in OTAs and how quickly he is impressing the coaching staff. Boss is not only a complement to Moeaki, but he is also insurance to the oft-injured tight end out of Iowa. 
  • The back up QB situation
    • It seems that the only quarterback battle the Chiefs will have this offseason is for that of the 2nd  spot. This primary backup position will be a competition between second year player Ricky Stanzi and newly acquired former first round pick Brady Quinn. The Chiefs have been alternating the quarterbacks between second and third team offenses during OTAs just to see what each quarterback has. This battle for the backup will probably be talked about more than it really needs to be, but the result should be interesting. 
I think that about catches me up. If you have any other topics you want me to discuss, just hit me up in the comment section. 

It's good to be back.