At 4-9-1, there’s little overt optimism when considering the Minnesota Vikings’ 2013 campaign. Looking a little closer, however, we see that there is in fact a silver lining that has developed for the Vikings, and that would be quarterback Matt Cassel.
In the seven games that Matt Cassel has taken snaps, the Vikings are a respectable 4-3. To put more perspective on that record, the Vikings are 0-6-1 in games Matt Cassel didn’t play in. Even if we consider that Cassel didn’t do a whole lot in the Vikings’ win over the lowly Redskins, there’s still no denying his impact on the Vikings’ offense.
Matt Cassel hasn’t played in an out-of-this-world manner for the Vikings, but he’s done a great job of keeping the Vikings close. Christian Ponder, by contrast, hasn’t been able to do that. Whereas Matt Cassel has posted nearly twice as many touchdowns (9) as he has interceptions (5), Ponder is throwing more picks than scores.
At this moment, the Vikings stand to draft eighth overall in the 2014 NFL draft. That means the top quarterback prospects will be off the board, leaving the Vikings their pick of the second-tier guys. That’s the same group of prospects that the Vikings pulled Ponder from, and Ponder was never able to deliver the types of performances the Vikings needed to win. Chances are strong the Vikings will move in a different direction this time around.
If the Vikings do move to use their top pick on anything other than a quarterback, Matt Cassel has established himself as a legitimate option moving forward with the Vikings. That’s of particular importance when considering that a new coaching staff may be coming in following this season.
In recent years, quarterbacks taken early in the draft have been anything but a sure pick. Guys like Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder (among others) have flopped in remarkable fashion. Those flops should serve as a warning to teams that are ready to pull the trigger on an early-round quarterback prospect. Having been bitten by the selection of Ponder, the Vikings should be ready to explore their options outside the draft, even if a new coaching staff is coming to town.
Matt Cassel has quietly built a respectable portfolio with the Vikings. He’s obviously not the next star gunslinger, but he’ll keep his team in contention too. With a top ten draft pick on the horizon, the Vikings would be better served using their top picks to build a team around Cassel instead of gambling that a young quarterback will develop into a star. At some point, the Vikings will chase a franchise-caliber quarterback, but Cassel is a more-than-serviceable alternative that warrants a longer look from the Vikings.
There’s no guarantee that the Vikings will pass on a top ten quarterback selection in the 2014 draft, that’s just conjecture on my part, but there’s no doubt that Matt Cassel has done enough to insert himself as an option for a team that desperately needs quality play from its quarterbacks.