Since being traded by the Buffalo Bills and coming to play for his childhood team, things haven't gone extremely well for Matt Cassel. It hasn't all been his fault after the Cowboys lost seven straight without Tony Romo and put forth an offense that ranks among the worst in the league. At 3-8 on the year, Dallas is somehow still in the thick of the NFC East race and has a sliver of a chance at the playoffs. With that comes an opportunity for Matt Cassel to change the court of public opinion.
The Dallas Cowboys organization is rich in the history of backup quarterbacks. Everyone knows the tales of Clint Longley, Jon Kitna and even head coach Jason Garrett. In fact, backup quarterback has been all the talk since Tony Romo went down for the second time in this never-ending saga of sadness that has become the 2015 Dallas Cowboys.
At 33 years old, Cassel is what he is. He's a quarterback that is probably more revered in his time with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. This year, he's thrown five touchdowns and five interceptions. That is what Matt Cassel has been the last few years, but he admitted to the Star-Telegram that he's feeling more comfortable this time around:
"There’s definitely more of a comfort level, I think," Cassel said. "Each week I’ve felt more and more comfortable. But then you also get to step back. You can go back and critique yourself over the last few weeks, and at the same time, get ready to go and step in. But my comfort level from my first start to where I am now is night and day."
It might also help Cassel's cause that Dez Bryant fully participated in practice for the first time since returning from his broken foot in Cassel's first game under center. Absolutely nothing has gone right for the Cowboys in 2015 and the whole team is hoping they can make a late push and salvage something. However, if you look at Cassel's stat line since becoming a Cowboy, maybe there is something to becoming more comfortable in this offense.
In all four games they have lost with Cassel starting, it's been by a combined 18 points. In fact, Matt Cassel has completed 74 of his 119 passes which put him at 62.2% on the year. Not half bad for a backup quarterback. Of those five interceptions, three came in his first start. Cassel also took the time out to point out how watching Romo has helped him:
"The little nuances to it or the cadences, the simple things that he does at the line of scrimmage, some of the protections that he was able to get to – it was great for me to see that and see that in person," Cassel said. "Because when you’re watching it on film, you’re just watching a cut-up reel or something like that. You don’t completely understand it. But when you’re out there on a day-to-day and watching practice and seeing it in a game, it was very helpful for me."
Now who knows if that is an accurate statement or not, but Cassel is hoping to rewrite his narrative over the next five games. He knows that not only will wins give him a case to become Tony Romo's backup for the near future but that it can also lead to a nice incentive, should he perform well. According to Todd Archer, Cassel can earn another $1.2 million if he remains the starter for the final five games. Cassel will be able to earn that by winning games and keeping the 'Boys afloat in this terrifyingly bad division. As long as the Cowboys are in contention, there will be no reason for the Kellen Moore show to begin.
With a big divisional showdown on the slate for Monday night with the team from Washington, Cassel has a real opportunity to begin his redemption song. After all, Cassel could be the good luck charm this Cowboys team has needed. As a starter on MNF, Cassel has completed 58% of his passes for five touchdowns to three interceptions and has passed for nearly 700 yards. The best statistic though is that he's 3-1 as a starter on Monday nights, both with the Patriots and Chiefs respectively.
Washington will bring their own obstacles for the Cowboys to overcome as they have forced at least two turnovers in eight games straight and are 5-1 at FedEx Field. At- 5-6, they have already eclipsed their win total from 2014 and are looking to stay ahead in the aforementioned cesspool that is the NFC Least.
For Matt Cassel, everything sits in front of him and is ripe for the taking. He has certainly improved the more he's played and he's put the Cowboys in the position to win games. Unfortunately, one man cannot do it by himself as he's had everything from defensive collapses to costly penalties and poor officiating. Such is life in the NFL and you have to learn to overcome those. Sadly, the Cowboys haven't been good enough to overcome their deficiencies. Cassel surely hopes he can lead the Cowboys to a better finish than how he started and who knows what becomes possible if he does? Kitna led the Cowboys to a 5-3 record down the stretch in 2010 and became a Cowboys' favorite. Can Matt Cassel etch his name next to Cowboys' backup quarterback legends of the past and turnaround what has been a season to forget? He will get his chance come Monday night against the division-leading team in Washington.