Matt Cassel Is Not the Answer


Dec 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel (16) looks on following the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Eagles 48-30. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s really nice to see the Vikings offense finally clicking. It’s nice to see Greg Jennings giving the team a return on their rather large investment in him. It’s nice to see Matt Cassel running things with calm professionalism, like a real NFL QB.

Lost draft position aside, it’s nice watching the team win. It’s nice that they’re no longer embarrassing themselves. It’s nice being able to enjoy my Sunday afternoons.

It’s nice that Matt Cassel is having all sorts of wreathes and laurels and things hung around his neck like a great Olympic champion. It’s nice that, after a season of upheaval and nonsense at the quarterback position, there’s finally a guy in there who brings not just competence but occasional excellence.

It’s nice having a QB who knows how to step up against the rush and deliver. Who makes decisive reads. Who can see a blitz coming and find the one-on-one matchups. Who throws an accurate deep ball. Who spreads the ball around, hitting receivers outside the hashes as well as over the middle.

It’s nice that Matt Cassel is demonstrably better than Christian Ponder. It’s nice that Ponder’s mindless defenders have finally been sent running for the hills.

It’s nice that the Vikings hung 48 points on Philadelphia Sunday. 48 freaking points. Like it was 1998 all over again.

It’s nice that, with Cassel in there, the Vikings are no longer so Adrian Peterson-dependent. The Vikings scored 48 with Matt Asiata in the game. Matt. Effing. Asiata.

It’s all nice. But seriously people, Matt Cassel? He’s just not the answer. No way. No chance in hell.

Cassel is the band aid, the Brad Johnson, the Gus Frerotte. He’s the bridge from Ponder to whatever quarterback Rick Spielman picks up in the draft next year. Throw out your favorite names now.

Nothing’s changed just because Matt Cassel has given the Vikings a few solid performances. The long-term plan is still the same. Find a young quarterback who can be the Vikings’ Aaron Rodgers.

Matt Cassel isn’t Aaron Rodgers, he’s Matt Flynn.

Cassel is a journeyman quarterback. He’s the guy who, in four years as the supposed franchise QB in Kansas City, failed to crack 60% completions even once. Who threw 20 touchdowns just once. Who led his team to the playoffs just once. Who got benched for Brady Quinn.

He has veteran savvy, pocket presence, good eyes for reading the field. You know who else has those things? Shaun Hill.

Matt Cassel is not an unknown quantity. He’s not a guy who came out of nowhere. We’ve seen enough of Matt Cassel to know what Matt Cassel is.

He’s a nice backup quarterback. A nice guy to plug in during a trainwreck season and restore a sense of stability and calm. A nice guy to have for a game here, a game there.

The Vikings have been rescued by backup quarterbacks before. Randal Cunningham rescued them after Brad Johnson went down. Jeff George rescued them after Cunningham was awful. Brad Johnson rescued them after Daunte Culpepper blew out his knee. Gus Frerotte rescued them after Tarvaris Jackson was benched for being terrible.

The savior backups listed above all have one thing in common: they did absolutely nothing for the Vikings after their one-season rescue jobs.

The Vikings had no illusions about those previous short-term QBs. They should have no illusions about Matt Cassel.

Arguments about whether Cassel should have started the whole season are fun and make Christian Ponder’s few remaining fans apoplectic with rage, but they are ultimately meaningless. Even had Cassel started, the Vikings may very well have been terrible.

Cassel may have long-since, in the parlance of the wonk, reverted to the mean. He may revert to the mean next week against Cincinnati. The way Cassel played against Philadelphia, such a reversion would be more like an implosion.

Point being, Cassel is going to revert at some point. He didn’t suddenly become Tom Brady. He’s Matt Cassel at the top of a peak.

Cassel has had peaks before. But he’s had valleys too. Really deep, scary, dark valleys filled with werewolves. He got benched for Brady Quinn, people. It doesn’t get darker and scarier than that.

Not trying to bash Matt Cassel, just trying to sprinkle some truth-sugar on everyone’s fun-flakes. I enjoyed Matt Cassel against the Eagles as well. For a minute I let myself get all starry-eyed imagining what the Vikings might have done with Cassel in there all season.

Then I remembered, oh yeah, he’s Matt Cassel. He’s okay. He’s not great.

The quest for quarterback excellence has not ended in Minnesota. It’s taken a little detour into a safe harbor where Matt Cassel stands over everything, smiling benignly, his arm around Greg Jennings in a warm, brotherly embrace.

Soon the path will descend back into the woods, into the thorns and the shadows. Only Rick Spielman can ultimately lead us out of the wilderness of suckiness-to-competence and into the wonderful light of long-term quarterback greatness.

I’m not entirely sure Rick is up to the challenge, but we’ll see. Much is still vague and shadowy. Except one thing:

Matt Cassel. I know he’s not the answer. I know it like I know my own name.

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