Even Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, perhaps the most polite interviews in the league, admits he didn't really know what the heck was going on at quarterback with the Vikings last season. (Join the club, Matt).
"Well, I don't think I knew where I stood week to week," Cassel said earlier today during a conference call with the media. "There was always something going on. You never really knew until coach [Leslie Frazier] told you what was going on. You just prepared to the best of your ability and sit there and hope you get the chance to get on the field. At the end of the day, I think I was able to get on the field and I think we finished pretty strong and gave myself another opportunity to come back.
Cassel said he's been given no assurances about his status on the depth chart, but he sounds a lot more comfortable after having talked to the current coaching staff that included head coach Mike Zimmer and the widely-respected Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. And that's why Cassel chose to re-sign with the Vikings for $10 million over two years a month after opting out of the final year of his original deal with the team.
"I think there was a multitude of reasons for coming back to the Minnesota Vikings," Cassel said. "I'm a big fan of Coach Zimmer. I think he does a phenomenal job with his defense. I played against him a few times and it's always difficult to prepare for somebody like that. And also at the same time, I think the hiring of Coach Turner and my familiarity with the personnel and the potential that we have to be explosive on the offensive side of the ball, I was excited about all those factors."
Cassel said Turner will be his "seventh offensive coordinator in six seasons." But even without having played a snap for Turner, Cassel said there's already a "trust factor."
"I'm extremely excited about playing for coach Turner," Cassel said. "I think his resume speaks for itself. He's had a lot of success throughout his tenure in the NFL with multiple teams and multiple quarterbacks. Obviously, I had a chance to play against him a lot when he was in San Diego and I was in Kansas City. The one thing you always knew about [him] was you had to make sure you scored a lot of points because he was going to take his shots and he does a phenomenal job of creating mismatches with people inside, formationing people in different areas so you can get a great matchup. And it's a quarterback-friendly system that I think my skillset really fits well. ... I think he gives you a lot of confidence as a player, knowing that if I go in and do what I'm supposed to do, there's a great possibility that I'm going to be successful."
Cassel, who went 3-3 as a starter while mired in a three-headed quarterbacking nightmare with Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman a year ago, will head to training camp as the starter. Whether he keeps that designation could depend on what the Vikings do to address the position in the draft.
"I don't think anybody has really talked about [assurances]," Cassel said. "But at the same time, I think that it's a performance-based job. You have go out there and perform and compete. I've talked to Coach Zimmer on the phone and we're all very optimistic about working with each other. At the same time, I've never had one practice with Coach Zimmer. You have to go in and earn your keep every year in the NFL. That's part of the business.
"I do [expect to be the starter]. That's my mentality. I go in with the expectation to be the starter. That won't change. But you have to go out there and prove it. There are going to be two other quarterbacks, maybe three other quarterbacks, coming in here competing as well. That's what it is on every NFL roster."