Daboll’s playbook differs from terminology the team used last season, but it’s not as if Cassel hasn’t had to learn a new football language before. He’s going on his fifth offensive coordinator in four seasons as the Chiefs’ quarterback.
For now, however, the Chiefs are relying on Cassel to run and install the basics of Daboll’s new offense. New CBA rules prohibit coaches from taking part in any on-field instruction until April 30th, so Cassel is running the show with the team’s wide receivers over the next two weeks.
The circumstances have forced Cassel to become a quick learner, making each night a quiz night at the Cassel household. Lauren uses flash cards to test Matt’s playbook knowledge.
“It’s going to be a new offense, there is no doubt about it,” Cassel said following the second day of the Chiefs’ offseason program. “It’s going to take hard work, determination and putting in the time of learning the new offense.
“But at the same time I’m excited about working with Coach Daboll. He’s changed a lot since he was just a wide receivers coach in New England and it’s been fun to see him mature as a coach and to be reunited with him.”
It’s been an interesting offseason for Cassel. He’s endured a span of six months many quarterbacks wouldn’t have been able to handle.
Just think back to Jay Cutler’s exit from Denver when new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels flirted with the possibility of bringing Cassel with him from New England. Cassel has endured Cutler’s 2009 offseason threefold.
Not even a year removed from a Pro Bowl season and an AFC West championship, Cassel’s future as Kansas City’s starter has been the biggest sports storyline surrounding the team since November. In many ways, the chatter continues as the draft approaches next week.
First there was Cassel’s season-ending hand injury and the claiming of Kyle Orton off waivers.
Next came the organization’s desire to increase competition at quarterback.
Finally, a very public courting of Manning and the team’s reported interest in selecting Ryan Tannehill with its top pick in next week’s draft.
“Scott Pioli was very open with me about the fact that they were going to reach out to Peyton and, for me, I didn’t take any disrespect in that,” Cassel said. “Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. He’s one of the best quarterbacks to ever play this game, so how can you take disrespect in that?
“I appreciated the fact that they were in communication with me. They didn’t’ want me to find out about it from somebody else. The great part about Scott and everybody here is that they are always seeking to go out and bring in the best players and I understand that Peyton Manning is one of the best players in the game.”
Behind the scenes, Cassel was able to keep his grasp as the team’s locker room leader.
He developed a friendship with Orton that didn’t go unnoticed inside the Chiefs facility, helping the new quarterback adapt as quickly as he could. When the Chiefs knocked off undefeated Green Bay in Orton’s first start, Cassel shared in celebration alongside Orton and his teammates.
Throughout his ups and downs of the past year Cassel has always commanded in-house respect, but the appreciation of his teammates seems to have grown with the way he’s conducted himself over the winter.
“Matt reached out to me after I signed, which was awesome that he took the time to call me and congratulate me,” said TE
As the team begins offseason work this week with players both new and old to the franchise, Cassel is the one out front setting up throwing schedules and serving as a vocal leader. He’s proven to be mentally strong throughout what has undoubtedly been the most difficult offseason of his NFL career.
With a new offense to install, the Chiefs can’t have it any other way.
“For me, I keep an open mind about what is going on,” Cassel said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much time these quarterbacks spend together and it’s all about what kind of room you have. The guys who can contribute, hold you accountable and push you, competition really does make you better.”
And what if Tannehill were to join the room next week?
“Again, every offseason you go into it with an open mind,” Cassel said. “Whether we bring in a fourth quarterback, whoever comes in here, we’ll embrace them. It’s about the room and if you can get quality guys into that quarterback room, and we can push each other, then that’s what it’s all about.”