Coming out of his team's bye week, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel will entrust Brady Quinn, not Matt Cassel, to help get the attention of a team that is off to a highly disappointing 1-5 start to the 2012 season.
"The circumstance that you're in, you have to decide what you want to do to try to change it," Crennel said on Monday according to the Kansas City Star. "I decided to change the quarterback.
"Probably the most impactful move I could make to get everybody's attention was to change the quarterback. I think that will get everybody's attention. Hopefully, that impacts the team because the quarterback position is the one with the spotlight on him."
Crennel's announcement could also be considered an early birthday present to Quinn, who turns 28 on Saturday. The 2007 first-round pick out of Notre Dame now has another opportunity to demonstrate that he can be a starting-caliber quarterback in the National Football League and possibly secure a contract more lucrative than the one-year, $1.5 million deal he signed to be Cassel's backup this season. In case Chiefs fans were curious, if Quinn does live up to his draft potential, and rallies the team back into contention in the AFC West, the 2013 franchise tag for quarterbacks is projected to be $14.5 million ($3 million more than it would take to use a second franchise tag on Dwayne Bowe).
The move to Quinn also spells the likely end of the Cassel Era in Kansas City. Acquired along with Mike Vrabel in exchange for a 2009 second-round pick (No. 34 overall, which was used on safety Patrick Chung), Cassel has completed 57.3 percent of 1,388 pass attempts for 8,903 yards with 58 touchdowns and 41 interceptions in 44 games for the Chiefs, earning Pro Bowl honors after the 2010 season. Cassel missed nearly half the 2011 season with a finger injury and has accounted for more turnovers (25) than touchdowns (16) in the last two seasons. With two seasons and $17 million remaining on the six-year, $63 million contract he signed off the franchise tag in 2009, and a cash outlay increasing from $5.5 million in 2012 to $7.75 million 2013, Cassel would have to reclaim his starting role in order to be back next season.
According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs rank 32nd in offensive efficiency and passing offense through Week 7, so a change at the quarterback position isn't simply about "shaking things up" or grabbing the team's attention, it's about getting more production from the position. With Quinn starting in place of a concussed Cassel and throwing a pair of interceptions in a 38-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the bye week, there's little reason to be optimistic that he'll be the guy going forward, which means the Chiefs will be looking for quarterback next offseason. The man currently slated to make that decision is Scott Pioli, the same GM who traded for Cassel and has paid him $46 million for those 44 starts over the last four seasons.
Pioli is signed through the 2013 season, but knows he's on the hot seat.
"The record, the overall performance, the performance by everybody," Pioli said of the franchise's disappointing showing during a Q&A session with the Kansas City Star during the bye week. "We all have a hand in this thing, starting with me. Ultimately I'm responsible for the football operation, and we're 1-5. We all need to do our jobs better, starting with me."
Four NFL teams changed general managers in 2012 and the Carolina Panthers -- who like the Chiefs, are 1-5 to start the 2012 season -- will be at least one team in the market for a new GM in 2013 after firing Marty Hurney on Monday. If the Chiefs don't turn things around in a hurry, Pioli could be next.