There’s no secret that the Chiefs have been searching for a franchise quarterback to build around since Len Dawson retired. Today in the Kansas City Star, Bill Reiter has a fantastic article that looks at the Chiefs history after Dawson and what the future holds for Matt Cassel.
There’s an interesting comparison between Dawson and Cassel, one Dawson himself suggested.
“For any of us, you’ve got to get your chance.”
Both men saw limited action in their first professional seasons: Dawson threw the ball four times; Cassel, 24. Dawson’s next two years saw him throw the ball only 13 times. For Cassel, years two and three produced 15 pass attempts. Both men languished in obscurity, known more for the men they played behind than their own play. And both men shared the prospect of sudden opportunity meeting a sign of great faith.
For Dawson, who was nearly out of football, it came in the form of a last-ditch effort with the Dallas Chiefs and an injury to Cotton Davidson, whom Lamar Hunt then traded away — the first and only trade the former owner made. For Cassel, it was Tom Brady going down, having a breakout season and having millions of dollars heaped onto him.
“I had to have an opportunity to play, and Cotton got hurt — kind of like Brady. If the guy’s winning and playing well, then you don’t make changes for the sake of changes. But (the Chiefs) were looking for a quarterback and knew the skills I had.”
That’s because Hank Stram — a man who had coached Dawson in college, who had seen him prepare and play — was the team’s head coach. And Cassel, off his breakout season, had a similar patron in Scott Pioli. A note Dawson recognizes.
“If Brady hadn’t gotten hurt, (Cassel) still wouldn’t be playing.”
The old legend smiles. Yes, he knows a thing or two about being underestimated — and about seizing that one chance, that one last hope, after you thought it would never arrive. Is Cassel the answer, finally, to the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback riddle?
Dawson thinks just maybe.
“Apparently, the preparation is there, from what I understand. He is prepared. And it starts with that, that he understands what they’re trying to accomplish. After that, leadership has to come with performance. On that, we’re going to find out.”
Just a great read from Reiter. It’s good to see Cassel seems to have the early approval from Dawson and I’m sure it didn’t hurt that their career paths have so far been very similar. It will be fascinating to hear Lenny critique Cassel as he tries to become the first quarterback the Chiefs build a foundation around in over 30 years.