Hartman: Cassel can be leader Vikings need at quarterback

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 8, 2014 - 7:04 PM

The veteran has shown he can guide a productive offense in the past with the Patriots and Chiefs.

While the Vikings still are trying to determine their starting quarterback, Matt Cassel has been the man most consistently mentioned as the presumed starter. If the Vikings get the kind of play from Cassel that he used in guiding the 2008 Patriots and the 2010 Chiefs, this team would have a chance to greatly improve on its 5-10-1 record from last season.

Cassel has started 68 games in the NFL with a 32-36 record, including a 3-3 mark as a starter for the Vikings in 2013. But there is no question he has shown that when he is surrounded by the right talent, he can be a very good quarterback and lead a team to the playoffs.

In 2008, he stepped in for an injured Tom Brady and started 15 games under Bill Belichick in New England. That season, Cassel posted an 89.4 quarterback rating with 3,693 passing yards, and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. The Patriots went 11-5 and missed the playoffs only because of a tiebreaker.

Cassel was so productive, the Patriots were forced to offer him a franchise tag, which resulted in the highest single season one-year contract for an offensive player in NFL history at $14.65 million.

Once the Patriots realized that Brady could return healthy, they dealt Cassel to the Chiefs, who then signed him to a six-year, $62.7 million deal.

Cassel struggled in his first year at Kansas City but was protected by a miserable offense line and took a league-high 47 sacks. The next season, he had good support and led the Chiefs to a 10-5 record, reaching the playoffs, while posting a 93.0 QB rating with 3,116 yards passing and 27 TDs with only seven interceptions.

That’s the kind of quarterback the Vikings need to succeed, and Cassel has proved that given the right team, he can be that player.

Meanwhile, Cassel said recently that he has enjoyed this offseason and working with Norv Turner as his new offensive coordinator.

“Well, I think each [team] has its differences and sometimes there are some similarities, but I think here in Minnesota they do a great job,” he said. “Obviously this offseason has been an intense offseason for us, and we’ve been working hard and it has been a lot of fun to be out there competing.

“It has been great working with Coach Turner and everyone else on the staff. They do a tremendous job, coach you hard, get you prepared, and for somebody that wants to learn and get better each and every day, I think it’s a great fit for me.”

Cassel was asked for his opinion of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

“I think he has done a tremendous job,” Cassel said. “Obviously he has come in here and worked hard. He was well-coached in college, has good footwork and a strong arm, I think it’s just time on task. It’s like all of us, we’re all learning a new offense so it’s just a matter of getting repetitions and showing how much you can progress.”

Asked for his opinion on Christian Ponder, who has taken a beating from fans and the media in the past, Cassel said: “I don’t read the press, so I don’t really know [about that]. But I know that Christian Ponder is a heck of a guy, a stand-up teammate, he works hard, doesn’t complain, and I think he’s a heck of a player. He’s a heck of a young player. He’s only going into this fourth year. He’s led a team to the playoffs, which is a lot more than some quarterbacks can even say, and I think he has a lot of football ahead of him.”

Walsh on TCF

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh said it will be a whole new experience kicking outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium instead of the weather-controlled environment at the Metrodome. Walsh will get his first chance to kick in a game at the stadium on Friday.

“I just have to continue to learn the winds and learn the stadium,” Walsh said. “Now is it going to be as consistently easy to kick there? No, it’s not. Obviously you’re outside and dealing with elements, but there’s no reason that I shouldn’t have very similar numbers to the last two years that I’ve had on kickoffs.”

Walsh said he hopes to turn the stadium into an advantage.

“It’s a very cool atmosphere, has a cool, college vibe to it,” he said. “I’m sure I won’t be saying that when it has 4 feet of snow piled on it in December, but it’s going to be fun. We’re going to make it our home-field advantage and understand the winds and the patterns but at the same time, at the end of the day, it’s football. You have to go out there and play, and deal with the elements, and enjoy it.”

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2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
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Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
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