Cassel will continue to start at QB for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brodie Croyle has a much higher quarterback rating and a better completion percentage, but Matt Cassel has a bigger guaranteed contract. Guess who'll start for Kansas City on Sunday?

It will be Cassel facing the Eagles in Philadelphia, coach Todd Haley said Tuesday. But the rookie head coach also said he would not hesitate to make a switch if he decided Croyle gives the winless Chiefs a better chance.

He would really have the courage to bench someone his boss showered with millions of dollars and staked a big chunk of his reputation on?

"You've got to ultimately do what you think gives your team the best chance to win," Haley said. "If that means another quarterback being in there other than Matt Cassel, then sign me up."

Cassel has been one of the happiest success stories in recent years. He is one of the few, and perhaps the only, quarterback to start and win an NFL game without ever starting a game in college.

But in the loss to Oakland on Sunday in his and Haley's regular-season debut in Arrowhead Stadium, he was 24-of-39 passing for 241 yards, a completion percentage of 61.5. His quarterback rating is 66.3

Croyle, as Cassel's injured left knee continued to mend, hit 16 of 24 for 177 yards and two touchdowns the week before at Baltimore. He threw two touchdown passes and did not throw an interception while compiling a rating of 116.1

"I think when you talk about any of these players, you're talking about a total evaluation, going all the way back to when we first got together as a group," Haley said. "And there's a lot of different things that factor into those decisions. Again, it's a process. It's how they practiced last week, how they practiced the week before, how they prepare, are they studying?"

At Southern Cal, Cassel played behind two Heisman Trophy winners and then sat on the bench behind Tom Brady at New England until Brady was hurt in the season opener last year.

After he stepped in and led the Patriots to 11 wins, he was considered one of the greatest "finds" of Scott Pioli, who was Bill Belichick's right-hand man in New England until the Chiefs hired him in January as general manager. When Pioli brought Cassel to Kansas City and gave him a six-year contract worth a guaranteed $28 million, his future as the Chiefs' foundation quarterback seemed unbreakable.

But he hurt his knee in the third preseason game and was inconsistent against Oakland, showing courage to run around and absorb a hit but also throwing the two picks.

Croyle, injury-prone going all the way back to college, was going to be the foundation quarterback under Herm Edwards, but became almost the forgotten man when he missed most of last season and Edwards was fired. He played well enough in training camp to be the No. 2, and carried that over to the Baltimore game.

"I thought Brodie Croyle went into a very difficult situation, a hostile environment against a very good defense and he looked like an NFL quarterback. He gave us a legitimate chance to win," said Haley. "He executed the game plan the way he was asked to execute it."

Haley points to his experience as an assistant coach to prove he would not hesitate to make a change at any position.

"We had a guy named Glenn Foley the entire city of New York was excited about," he said. "We picked up Vinnie (Testaverde) right before training camp but after three games it was clear that Vinnie would give us the best chance to win and I was there for that change. I was there in Dallas when we brought in Drew Bledsoe and they brought him in for a reason, to play quarterback. And we had a guy named Tony Romo that as the days went on you saw, `Hey, maybe this guy gives us the best shot to win,' and we made a midseason change."

Last year, when Haley was offensive coordinator at Arizona, he was involved in one of the most fateful quarterback switches of the season. Matt Leinart, a No. 1 pick, was struggling and aging veteran Kurt Warner was on hand as his backup.

"When we made that change, there was a lot of negative feedback -- `What about the future?' There weren't too many people saying much when we were in the Super Bowl last year," Haley said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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