In the 30 years prior to their Patrick Mahomes first-round pick, the Chiefs did not entrust their offenses to homegrown investments too often.
Once 1983 first-rounder Todd Blackledge did not pan out, this franchise proceeded to acquire a slew of veteran quarterbacks via trade or free agency and hoped one of those offseason additions could elevate the team to a long-sought-after Super Bowl return. Steve DeBerg, Dave Krieg, Joe Montana, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac and Rich Gannon all played key roles in piloting Chiefs teams to the playoffs during their successful 1990s run. Alex Smith helped deliver the most consistency since those years, leading Kansas City to four postseasons in five seasons, and Trent Green was at the controls of an explosive offense in K.C.’s run to the 2003 No. 2 seed.
But a key choice in Chiefs history came to fruition on this date nine years ago. In addition to being the key date on the Con Air timeline, July 14 proved to be a pivotal day for Matt Cassel. The Chiefs traded for Cassel in March of 2009 and signed him to a six-year, $63MM contract just prior to training camp that year.
This proved to be a windfall for the former Patriots backup. He received $28MM guaranteed and saw $40.5MM in that deal’s first three years. Cassel took over for Tom Brady after he suffered a season-ending injury against the Chiefs in Week 1 of the 2008 season. Completing a career-high 63.4 percent of his passes, Cassel guided the Patriots to an 11-win season. The Patriots used a $14.65MM franchise tag on Cassel but shipped him to the Chiefs, along with Mike Vrabel, for 2009’s No. 34 overall pick. (New England used that selection to draft Patrick Chung, who’s started at safety in each of the Pats’ past three Super Bowl appearances.)
In Kansas City, Cassel could not establish himself as a viable long-term solution. Though, the franchise was patient with Cassel at this decade’s outset, giving him 47 starts.
Cassel started four seasons for the Chiefs, but only one of those went well for him. He threw 27 touchdown passes compared to just seven interceptions in 2010 to lead the Chiefs to a surprising AFC West title, but he only started 17 games combined the next two seasons. Injuries and an eventual demotion limited Cassel’s playing time during the Chiefs’ final two Scott Pioli seasons, with a low point coming in Oct. 2012 when a sect of Chiefs fans cheered when the then-starter went down with an injury.
The Chiefs hired Andy Reid and John Dorsey following a disastrous 2-14 season in 2012, and they moved swiftly to add Smith. A day after Smith’s introductory press conference, the Chiefs cut Cassel. However, the Vikings immediately added the veteran as Christian Ponder‘s backup.
Cassel’s been able to land work consistently since. He started six games for the Vikes in 2013 and opened the 2014 season as Teddy Bridgewater‘s stopgap. Cassel was unable to beat out Tyrod Taylor for the Bills’ job in 2015, but he ended up starting seven games during Tony Romo‘s absence that year. He’s since been Marcus Mariota‘s backup and is now at age 36 in position to serve as Matthew Stafford‘s. Interestingly, Vrabel’s Titans decided to cut Cassel this offseason despite the duo’s history as teammates.
But Cassel’s most memorable NFL stay occurred in Kansas City, and he was paid handsomely in an attempt to revive a then-struggling franchise.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.