Kansas City, Mo. Duck, Kansas City: A nasty quarterback controversy may be headed your way.
It’s just what the embattled, touchdown-starved Chiefs do not need. But if coach Romeo Crennel returns Brady Quinn to the bench and puts Matt Cassel back under center, a quarterback controversy seems a sure bet.
Crennel made it clear on Tuesday that Quinn and Cassel are now in head-to-head competition.
“What I told them is I’m rotating the quarterbacks. They will get equal reps,” Crennel said. “Both of them will get work and then we’ll evaluate it and then next week we’ll get ready for game week and then we’ll make a decision and go from there.”
Drawing from bitter experience during four stormy years as head coach in Cleveland, Crennel knows how destructive a QB controversy can be.
“It is distracting,” Crennel said. “Everybody’s wondering who the guy’s going to be, and all those kind of things. Then what happens, some guys on the team kind of favor one guy over another guy. Even though everybody’s got a job to do and they will do their job. But it is a distraction.”
Cassel missed last week’s game at Tampa Bay with a concussion he suffered the week before. That was fine with some fans; many have never warmed to the former New England backup who didn’t help his case by throwing nine interceptions through the first five games.
But Cassel was back on the wind-swept practice field on Tuesday, cleared for non-contract drills, and Crennel expects him to be OK by the time the Chiefs (1-5) come back from their bye week and play Oakland (1-4) on Oct. 28.
No matter who’s under center, the offense will be looking for its first touchdown in eight quarters.
“They will give (Cassel) another test next week, on game week, to finalize, to make it official,” said Crennel. “But I imagine, during these couple of days here, if he does good and there’s nothing different on his baseline test, that he’ll be cleared for contact.”
Cassel was having no trouble moving around.
“I feel great, yeah,” he said. “I’ve passed all the tests and done all that.”
Quinn, in his first start in almost three seasons, did OK for the most part during last week’s 38-10 loss to the Buccaneers, the Chiefs’ fourth blowout defeat. He was 22 for 38 for 180 yards, sticking almost entirely to short and intermediate-range passes.
He had two interceptions, but at least one was hardly his fault as it bounced off the receiver’s thigh, bounced off the defensive back’s forearm and bounced off the back of the receiver’s elbow before Ronde Barber snatched it out of the air, about an inch from the ground, and returned it for a Tampa Bay touchdown.
“He processed the information nicely. He was able to read defenses, get us out of a play, get us into a play,” Crennel said.
But how long will it take to chip away the rust? Is it like riding a bicycle, it comes right back?
“I think that depends on how good of a rider you were to start with,” the coach said.
Getting Cassel in a trade with New England was one of the first major moves Scott Pioli made after being named general manager in Kansas City in 2009. Although he had a nice year in 2010, last year was a struggle and this year’s bad start includes a league-high 19 turnovers.
When Cassel went down in the fourth quarter of a 9-6 loss to Baltimore two weeks ago, some cheering was heard from the Arrowhead Stadium crowd. It prompted sharp comments from tackle Eric Winston about the hometown crowd and national attention no one wanted.
“All I’ll say is I live here year-round in Kansas City and I’ve had nothing but support from the people in Kansas City and the people that we’ve met,” Cassel said Tuesday. “The fact of the matter is Kansas City is a great place to play and we’ve got a passionate fan base. I’m sure they’re frustrated. I’m frustrated as well. But we’re working and doing everything in our power to get it corrected.”