Let me first begin by saying that I am a Matt Cassel fan. I saw his career blossom back in 1998 when I moved into an apartment just down the street from Chatsworth High School.
Chatsworth was known as a powerhouse in baseball, but Cassel’s arm stole the headlines on the football field. When he committed to Pete Carroll at USC, I had no doubt he’d become a record setting passer in the PAC-10.
Timing is everything in life and Cassel was unlucky enough to be on a Trojan roster with two Heisman winners at the same position as his. He would be relegated to the bench, seemingly shifting his tale from future franchise QB to high school hero unfit to wear the crown of greatness.
By now, we all know the tale of his rise from being Tom Brady’s back up to $14 million starter in less than a year. Now he’s a Chief and I’ll get to see him play at least twice a year. Of course whenever he plays against my Raiders, I’ll be the loudest heckler in the crowd. But, since I always support my fellow Cali natives in the sports world, I’d like to offer him a few tips in order to survive here in the AFC West.
1) Stay humble – Look, you’ve come a long way, now is not the time to get cocky. I’m a supporter, but I’m not sold on all the hype. Yes, you balled when you came to Oakland last year. I was watching. But you had a great O-line, a Hall of Fame receiver and a hungry defense helping you. Now the bar is raised and Chief fans aren’t Pats fans. In KC you’re expected to carry the franchise and not just keep the seat warm for Brady. Just remember how Brady went from clipboard jockey to supermodel hubby. All I’m saying is you’ve only got a one year deal (as of now) and Tyler Thigpen might want to marry a supermodel some day too.
2) Become a leader – There is some talent on that Chief roster. D-Bowe is set to make a Pro Bowl roster now that he might actually have a legit QB to get him the ball. Tony Gonzalez is a Hall of Famer who has never seen a win in the playoffs. Convince him that you’re the guy who can add the exclamation point to punctuate his career and he’ll have your back when you get in Larry Johnson’s face in the huddle. You’re on the verge of getting paid to endorse soft drinks, so now is not the time to go Tony Romo. Act like you’ve been here before.
3) Up your game against your new rivals – The AFC West boasts of some of the most heated rivalries in all of sports. You might have thought that you got it bad as a Pat when you came to Oakland, but wait till you show up wearing a Chief shirt. This is not the friendly AFC East where Brett Favre makes nice with Chad Pennington. This is the wild AFC West where Philip Rivers heckles Jay Cutler like a drunken Charger fan would. Chief fans will forgive you for stinking it up in Philly next year if you run the table on the Broncos and Chargers. Sorry, but something tells me its going to be tough for you to get one over the Raiders next year. Just a hunch, but I think you’re going to find it a little more difficult to toss 4 touches in Oakland this time around.
4) Don’t test Asomugha – You’re a sharp kid, no doubt. But you’re not going to make a name for yourself by throwing at the best corner in the business. That is a sure fire way to start hearing the “Scotty Mitchell” chants get louder and louder with each INT. Again, defer to Tony G whenever you play the Raiders. I know it seems wrong to give a Chief advice when it comes to my team, but this is a gentlemen’s game and nothing would be better than having the Raiders and Chiefs turn the AFC West on its head next year.
Well, Mr. Cassel, I hope this helps you some. You’ve just gone from zero to hero in less than 12 months and now you’ll have to go from Jesus Shuttlesworth to Jesus Christ in less than one regular season. You’re not playing with house money anymore. It’s your own paycheck that you’re playing with now. I wish you the best, but can’t wait to see you wearing Tommy Kelly like a backpack.
Welcome to the wild AFC West, Matt Cassel!