In the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan wonders why Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier didn’t switch to Matt Cassel permanently the first time Christian Ponder went down to injury:
The Vikings will be looking for a quarterback in the draft. If they could draw up a prototype of the ideal prospect, he would look something like this:
About 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. Good mechanics. Able to control a huddle and read defenses. Adept at throwing the deep ball.
He’d possess leadership skills and experience. He’d be able to complete about 62 percent of his passes, move well within the pocket and handle the diplomatic demands of the modern NFL quarterback.
The Vikings absolutely should draft someone like that. They also should realize that they’ll have that guy in their huddle Sunday.
If you want to label Matt Cassel, you can pick any convenient phrase, and you’d be right. He has been project, prospect, young backup, winning starter, losing starter, demoted starter, castoff, veteran backup, emergency starter and, this season, a third quarterback on a team that temporarily favored two struggling quarterbacks.
At season’s end, either he or the Vikings can opt out of the second year of his two-year contract. The Vikings would be wise to keep him around. Asked whether he wants to stay, Cassel said, “I would love to be back here.”
Cassel has done exactly what the Vikings wanted Christian Ponder to do: take advantage of defenses stacked up to stop Adrian Peterson. Last Sunday, Cassel went further, taking advantage of a defense that had probably never heard of fill-in starter Matt Asiata. Cassel produced 48 points with an offense missing its top two backs and top two tight ends.
A Vikings quarterback has thrown for 240 yards five times this season. Ponder and Freeman have done it zero times; Cassel has done it five times.
Matt Cassel may not be the long-term answer, but he’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s a better quarterback than either Ponder or Freeman and has fully earned the starting role for the remainder of the season. The team has been more than generous in allowing Ponder opportunities to solidify his hold on the starting quarterback position and he’s remained frustratingly inconsistent. The $2 million spent on bringing Josh Freeman to town might as well have gone on redecorating the locker rooms at the soon-to-be-demolished Metrodome, as it would clearly take a miracle for him to see the field again this year.
Assuming that the Vikings spend a high pick on a quarterback in the 2014 draft, keeping Cassel on the roster is the intelligent thing to do. He can start, giving the rookie more time to acclimatize to the NFL, or he can be a mentor if the team decides to give the rookie a chance to start right away. Cassel may not be the best quarterback around, but he’s the best option open to Minnesota.
Matt Cassel has more passing yards through his first 4 career starts with the @Vikings than any other QB in franchise history (1136).
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 22, 2013