Q: Is there something you want to prove to your old college coach Pete Carroll in this game?
CASSEL: “I have the upmost respect for Coach Carroll and we had a great relationship while I was at USC. He was a great coach and led us to a bunch of National Championships, obviously he made the right decision going with Matt (Leinart) because we won National Championships with him and he won a few Heisman trophies. As a competitor, would I of liked to compete and play for a coach there, of course, but you go with the hand that you are dealt and I feel like it has worked out for me thus far. At the same time, this is the team we are competing against this week and I’d like to go out and get a win.”
Q: How was it explained to you by Carroll that you were not starting back at USC?
CASSEL: “I think they might of flipped a coin or something and I was on the other end. I think I called heads (laughing). There were probably a number of different decisions, nothing was ever really explained to me, but at the same time, that is what happened and they went the other direction and obviously it was the right choice for the program at the time.”
Q: What do you remember thinking about what not starting meant for your future?
CASSEL: “It is a tough question, it is hard to revisit because all of those same thoughts went through my mind. I thought, ‘gosh, am I ever going to get the opportunity to play? Should I transfer? Should I do this? Should I do that? You are kind of in a catch-22 because I felt like my education was important to me and I was a semester away from graduating but at the same time there was no defined starting role for any of us right then early on and you didn’t know how it was all going to pan out. Like I said, fortunately for me I still got a shot at the next level and it has all worked out to this point.”
Q: How close did you come to transferring?
CASSEL: “There was a small discussion between myself and my family, but at the same time I went to USC for a number of different reasons, it wasn’t just football. I felt that it was part of my character to stick it out and fight through it. Like I said, you have to deal with the cards that you are dealt.”
Q: How do you evaluate what you are seeing on tape from Seattle?
CASSEL: “Well, what you are seeing on tape is that this is a good group and it starts with their front four. I think it starts with number 91, (Chris) Clemons, he is a great pass rusher and we are going to have to find where he is at every single play. The linebacker group is a very athletic group led by LB Lofa Tatupu who obviously has been to a few Pro Bowls and is a very instinctive player. They have LB Aaron Curry out there who was their first-round pick last year who is a heck of an athlete. Then you go to their secondary, I don’t really know the status right now of CB Marcus Trufant, but he is one of the premier corners and has been for a long time. He plays at a high level. At their safety position, S Lawyer Milloy is one of the most experienced guys with 15 years in the league and he still can play in the box and loves to hit you. Then Earl Thomas, who is their free safety, he is all over the field. He has a knack for being around the ball and he has tremendous speed so we have quite a few players out there and we have our work cut out for us going up there.”
Q: You have fewer interceptions this season than you have had in the past. Is there something you can put your finger on that has helped you in that area?
CASSEL: “I think a little bit of it is definitely maturing as a quarterback, learning when the play is over and just throwing it away instead of trying to force the ball down field. I think that our team is going in the right direction and there are a number of different things that go into it. I think the running game has helped me also in terms of being able to set up play-action to alleviate some of the pass rush. I think the receivers are doing a great job as well.”
Q: Have you thrown the ball away a lot more this year compared to previous years?
CASSEL: “I think I have, that is one area that we really emphasize in the off-season and really work on. It was a point of emphasis that you don’t always have to make a great play and you don’t always have to try and run around and make a play out of nothing. Sometimes the right play is to just throw it away and move on to second down instead of maybe throwing the ball up for grabs and having it tipped and something bad happen. It was a point of emphasis and up to this point we had done a pretty good job.”
Q: Your numbers are better this year than Bengals QB Carson Palmer and QB Matt Leinart, both USC guys. How do things change that much once you get to this level?
CASSEL: “I think everybody’s situation is different and for me it was about continuing to work hard, continuing to believe in myself and surround myself with people that believed in me and continue to push forward. I, by no means, do it on my own. It starts with the 11 guys on the field and you can see it each and every Sunday with these guys out there. The receivers are making catches, the running backs are running down hill and the offensive line is doing a great job of blocking. We are playing pretty good football this year and hopefully that continues and we can make a push here in these last six games.”
Q: Did you feel like you were at a distinct disadvantage because you didn’t start three or four years at USC?
CASSEL: “I don’t think there is any substitute for playing, I will say that. I think even for me now I am still learning on the job and I see things week in and week out that I learn from or maybe I make a mistake that you would only make when you are out there on Sunday. I think you can be at a disadvantage if you are not playing a lot but at the same time, being in a program at USC that is such a pro-style program that is run like a professional team, you go in prepared and ready to go.”
Q: Is it fair to say you would have been more advanced now as a quarterback if you were able to start your final year?
CASSEL: “I don’t know. It is hard to say and I can’t really answer that question because I was never put in that situation.”
Q: So you were recruited by (Paul) Hackett?
CASSEL: “I was recruited by Hackett.”
Q: When he was let go your freshman year what were your thoughts after only being there a year. Did you consider changing your plans?
CASSEL: “Not at all. I chose USC for a number of different reasons. It was just football, it was for academics, it was close to my family and my hometown so at no point was there ever any point where I thought I was going to go somewhere else really.”
Q: In an average game, how many of those decisions to throw the football away do you have to make? Five or six?
CASSEL: “Yeah, tops. And sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.”
Q: How many times do you look at the tape when you do throw it away and see an open receiver?
CASSEL: “Probably a lot.” (laughing)
Q: Can you figure out why you guys have had tough times on the road this season?
CASSEL: “I think for us it is just about executing better. We have been in a lot of tight games and you mentioned quite a few right there. Other than the Denver game that got out of hand pretty early I would say that we were in all the games on the road. For us it just comes down to executing, maybe a few plays here and there and also finishing games. For us offensively if we get the chance to finish a game in a four-minute type drill, we need to take advantage of that. If the defense gets and opportunity to stop the opposing team then they need to take advantage of that as well. It is just about finishing games and executing better.”
Q: A lot of the young guys on the team are really excited about winning. When you are on the road in a hostile environment is winning something that needs to be learned by these young guys?
CASSEL: “Great point, we do have a young team and sometimes those guys can get excited about different situations. For us it is our jobs as leaders of the team, the older guys, to keep everybody in check and help them understand that this is a job and it is really one game at a time and this week it is Seattle going out on the road which is a tough place to play. It comes down to us executing better than they do.”
Q: How do you fit Thanksgiving into your football schedule? Do you watch football? Do you eat with your family?
CASSEL: “The Cassel family has quite a few people in town. We will cook a big bird and have some teammates come over and feed everybody. We will have some big bellies and probably have food comatose at the end and then we will take a few naps after watching a little football.”
Q: There is no food limit?
CASSEL: “I am sure there are a few guys in that locker room that might not eat unfortunately. Maybe just a piece of pie here or there. I think weigh-ins are tomorrow so actually they might get to eat. That will be good for them.”