COMMENTARY | There's an unwritten rule in the National Football League that says you should never lose your starting job due to an injury.
That rule has been broken plenty of times in the past and needs to be broken once again if Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier hopes to have a job with the team in 2014.
Matt Cassel showed Sunday in a 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers that he deserves to be the Vikings' starting quarterback over Christian Ponder. He wasn't great, but he was effective and did a solid job, especially considering he didn't know he would be playing against Pittsburgh until several days before the game.
The rust was evident in the early going, as Cassel started out 6-for 15-and could have had several passes intercepted. He also fumbled once, which was recovered by the Vikings. But as the game went along, Cassel appeared to settle in nicely and give Minnesota some quality play at quarterback, something seldom seen since Brett Favre's first year in 2009.
Cassel ended the game by hitting his final 10 passes and finished 16 of 25 for 248 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to Greg Jennings. His quarterback rating for the game was 123.4. Ponder's highest-ever game rating was a 120.2 in last year's season finale against the Packers.
The statistics don't tell the whole story, as Cassel has a stronger arm and a quicker release, which keeps the defense on its toes and helps open things up for the running game, a necessity when you have Adrian Peterson in your backfield. He made several nice throws that Ponder would not have attempted and his decisiveness on where to throw the ball allowed the receivers to gain yards after the catch.
Cassel is not a bad quarterback and his last full season as a starter was in 2010 with the Kansas City Chiefs, when he threw for more than 3,100 yards and 27 touchdowns while being intercepted seven times. He suffered through injury-plagued seasons in 2011 and 2012 while playing for head coaches Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel, who have a combined 47-81 record as head coaches.
With the Vikings having a bye, it's the perfect opportunity for Cassel to get in two week's worth of work with the first-team offense to get their timing down. The Vikings have several big-play receivers and Cassel has the ability to take advantage of their strengths better than Ponder.
At 31 years old, Cassel is unlikely to be the long-term answer for the Vikings at quarterback. But he is the best short-term solution that the team has.
Allen Moody is an author and sports bettor living in Nevada. A newspaper sports reporter for 12 years, he has been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings since the 1970s.
- Sports & Recreation
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- Matt Cassel
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- Christian Ponder