The Chiefs’ Matt Cassel and the Jets’ Mark Sanchez both played their college football at Southern Cal, but that is where their similarities end. Jonathan Rand compares the fishbowls that have greeted each player with their new teams.
Cassel led the New England Patriots to an 11-5 record in his first season as an NFL starter while stepping in for All-Everything Tom Brady. Sanchez has yet to throw an NFL pass. So which quarterback is turning more heads — the one with a strong season under his belt or a rookie who brings as many questions as expectations in the NFL?
It’s Sanchez, of course. What else would you expect when a quarterback becomes the 5th player drafted at Radio City Music Hall and gets to play in the Big Apple? He can’t throw a few off-target throws during OTAs without making Jets fans nervous. The stereotype of Sanchez as a Hollywood type was reinforced by a pre-draft photo shoot for the June issue of GQ, in which he and Hilary Rhoda model swim wear.
Such is the difference in profile between a USC quarterback who rode the bench, was drafted in the seventh round and ultimately landed in the Heartland, and one who was a Rose Bowl hero, was drafted in the first round and landed in New York.
There aren’t nearly the amount of reporters to deal with in Kansas City than in New York and the national media has focused much more on Sanchez than Cassel but there seems to be just as much anxiety among Chiefs fans as there is with those following Gang Green. Rand mentions Jets fans freaking out over a couple missed passes in OTAs, but what about the flares that were fired after Cassel missed on his first two attempts of the offseason? The media spotlight will never be as bright in Kansas City, but the fire from the fans will always be as hot as anywhere in the country.
After the Chiefs released Brian Johnston, there was immediate speculation that the Lions — home to former Kansas City defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham — would be interested. In fact, they were. The Lions have claimed Johnston off waivers.
Cunningham was the Chiefs’ DC when they drafted Johnston in the seventh round. Johnston played in nine games, with three solo tackles and one special team tackle. He is the second player this week and seventh this offseason the Lions have claimed off waivers.
I hope, for Johnston’s sake, that he sticks around with the Lions longer than the now-well traveled Will Franklin did. Maybe Gun can get more out of Johnston than he did last season now that there are no Herm-cuffs around.
The Kansas Chiefs had a down year across the board in 2008 and that includes the usually reliable punter, Dustin Colquitt. According to Bob Gretz, Colquitt was dealing with injuries throughout last season but is now pain free.
A trio of injuries combined to leave the Chiefs punter a physical wreck, his leg strength weakened by a pulled groin muscle that eventually pulled away from the bone. It was a struggle to get through each week. It was a struggle to get through each punt.
Today, Colquitt is healthy. In fact, after taking part in the team’s off-season conditioning program, he’s probably in the best shape of his life. He’s dropped 10 pounds, not because he wanted to lose weight; it just flew off with all the running the team has done.
“We are going to be in shape. Come the fourth quarter, we are still going to have something in our tank. I actually feel too low. I’ll add those 10 pounds back on before the season starts. It’s probably more mental than anything with me, but I feel better with a little more weight behind the ball.”
Just a few weeks after he was hired as head coach, Todd Haley was asked for an evaluation of his team. At that time, Haley had not seen all the game tape from the 2008 season. He said “we have a good punter.” Colquitt heard about that one from the other players.
“Yeah, I got a hard time for that. It was a compliment and coming after a season where I struggled so bad to get over the injury, it was nice to hear.”
I know this is going to sound odd, but Colquitt is one of my favorite players on the Chiefs. I can’t ever remember really feeling one way or another about punter, but it’s been nice over the last few years knowing that with all the crap the Chiefs have went through that Dusty was the one constant. Although the fact that the every series for the offense under Herman Edwards seemed to be a run-run-pass-punt could have something to do with why Dusty stuck out. He was on the field more than any punter in the league. Outside of the two games he missed last year, I had no idea the injury lingered the way it did for Colquitt. Either way, it’s good to see he’s back healthy and I expect a huge year (though hopefully we don’t see him nearly as much as year’s past).