Kansas City, Mo. One game into his career as quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Cassel finds himself surrounded by skeptical fans and critical media. The endorsement he got this week from his head coach?
Lukewarm at best.
Maybe it’s a good thing Cassel never reads the newspaper, listens to the radio talk shows or watches sports on television. Otherwise, he might get the idea that some people are wondering if his guaranteed $28 million contract is the reason he’s starting against Philadelphia this week and Brodie Croyle is not.
“I don’t think a contract has anything to do with it,” Cassel said Thursday, his appointed day to speak with the media. “I think they’re going to play the best person out there.”
That’s exactly what coach Todd Haley keeps saying, that his message will be consistent with every position regardless of how high a player was drafted or how much his contract might cost owner Clark Hunt.
In Cassel’s case, however, there is another consideration. He’s known to be a point of pride to general manager Scott Pioli, who drafted him at New England, brought him to Kansas City and gave him the first megabuck deal he’s negotiated as a GM.
But Haley keeps saying that not even all that will buy Cassel one extra minute to prove himself, that quarterback will be evaluated just like every other position as he sets about repairing a franchise that’s won only two of its last 27 games.
“You’ve got to ultimately do what you think gives your team the best chance to win,” Haley said. “If that means another quarterback being in there other than Matt Cassel, then sign me up.”
Cassel insists he sees it in no other terms.
“I think they’re going to play the best person out there,” Cassel said. “Obviously, I think they feel I’m the best guy for the job. Otherwise, going into the season I wouldn’t have been offered what I was offered.”
If Cassel reaches every incentive of the six-year deal, it could be worth more than $60 million.
The last thing the Chiefs (0-2) need is a quarterback controversy. And in this third week of the regular season, they don’t have one. But if Cassel continues to throw two interceptions a game as he did last week against Oakland, they soon will.
Croyle, who was slated to be the foundation quarterback under the previous regime until he kept getting hurt, performed well in the loss to Baltimore on opening day while Cassel nursed an injured left knee.
On Thursday, Haley said Cassel is clearly No. 1 on the depth chart.
“I would be clear that there’s no doubt in my mind that Matt Cassel right now gives us the best chance to win,” he said.
Does Cassel feel his head coach is in his corner?
“I hope he’s in my corner,” he said. “I mean, I’m in his corner. It’s one of those things where I don’t know what was said. I don’t read the paper. I don’t get involved. But he’s been consistent throughout the entire offseason, throughout the entire year about.
“I’m ready for the competition if that’s the way he wants to make it. But right now I do feel coach is in my corner. He’s been very supportive of me throughout my time here and we’re just trying to get better and move forward.”