Jun 17, 2014; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer speaks with quarterback Matt Cassel (16) during practice at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Like It Or Not, Negative Assessments Of Matt Cassel Are Valid

Another day, another poll/list ranking Matt Cassel among the worst starting QBs in the NFL.

Wall Street Cheat Sheet had a go at the Vikings’ presumptive #1 last week, ranking Cassel the second-worst starting QB in the league. Now it’s ESPN’s turn.

Andrew Krammer passed along the results of a poll asking 26 NFL GMs, coaches and scouts to rank the 32 starting QBs. Though Cassel didn’t come out quite as bad as in the Wall Street Cheat Sheet piece, he still ranked just 28th out of 32.

Krammer said of the Cassel result:

There was little debate with Matt Cassel, who had a 3-3 record as a starter for the Vikings last season, not counting a Dec. 1 win over Chicago in which he entered after halftime for Christian Ponder. Voters placed Jacksonville’s Chad Henne and Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel above Cassel, who has proven to be a successful journeyman, but inconsistent nonetheless. Cassel hasn’t played more than nine games in a season since 2010 and will be challenged by rookie Teddy Bridgewater when the Vikings open training camp on July 24.

All this hating on Cassel may rub some fans the wrong way, but like it or not, the criticisms are valid. Look at the whole of Cassel’s career and you see exactly what the ESPN poll and the other negative pieces suggest: that Matt Cassel is at best a borderline NFL starter.

The stats tell the story. Cassel ranks just 21st in career passer rating among active QBs with at least 1500 pass attempts. He’s 21st in career yards-per-completion. 22nd in adjusted yards-per-attempt. 22nd in completion percentage. 17th in interception percentage.

There are very few areas in which Cassel excels. There are several areas, including ball security and overall accuracy, in which Cassel struggles. There is a reason Matt Cassel didn’t have teams beating down his door this year when he opted out and briefly became a free agent.

None of this should really be news to anyone, and it certainly isn’t news to the Vikings, who knew exactly what they were getting when they retained Cassel’s services this offseason: a competent professional to hold down the job until Teddy Bridgewater is ready.

“Competent” is really the best word to describe Cassel. He is a pro who will prepare himself the right way, who will provide solid leadership in the locker room and in the huddle, and who will generally not embarrass himself on the field.

Which isn’t to say that Matt Cassel is incapable of doing good things for the Vikings. You just have to be careful about your definition of “good.”

If you’re expecting Cassel to put together a great run of games and lead the Vikings on a surprise playoff charge ala Gus Frerotte in 2008…well, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Cassel frankly is not as good as Frerotte in ’08 when he took over for the inept Tarvaris Jackson (and remember that Frerotte had a better defense and a younger Adrian Peterson).

I’m not sure Cassel right now is even as solid a starter as Brad Johnson when he took over for Daunte Culpepper in 2005 and led the Vikings on an improbable 7-2 run that almost ended with a playoff berth.

For Viking fans hoping that 2014 will bring success and maybe even a surprise playoff appearance, the best hope is that Teddy Bridgewater will catch on early, take over the starting job and become a genuine rookie phenom.

That seems like a long shot. But it’s an even longer shot that Matt Cassel will overcome his well-known inadequacies and lead the Vikings charging into the postseason. The best we should expect from Cassel is a competent, professional, non-embarrassing place-holder performance. And if the Vikings make it to 8-8 in Mike Zimmer’s inaugural season, I would call that a successful campaign.

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