Playing quarterback for the KC Chiefs has never been easy. You could say that for any NFL team, I suppose, but here it often has become a blood sport. Criticism of our quarterback, whoever he may be, comes with gravitational certainty.
During my time as PR director dating back to 1989, I worked with nine different starting quarterbacks and that number doesn't include others who came and went and were labeled, at one time or another, as the "starter".
Does the name Steve Pelluer sound familiar to you?
Pelluer was acquired in a 1989 trade with the Dallas Cowboys to replace Steve DeBerg, who had been struggling in coach Marty Schottenheimer's first year with the team, but was promptly injured thrusting DeBerg back into a starting role. It happened again that year when Ron Jaworski, nearing the end of his career, got the call, and then he too was injured, and DeBerg was again back behind center acquiring the nickname, "Freddy Krueger," a reference to the protagonist of the horror movie who kept coming back in repeated sequels.
Throughout the 1990s, one of the most productive periods in franchise history, the Chiefs featured the following starting quarterbacks: Steve DeBerg, Dave Krieg, Joe Montana, Steve Bono, and Elvis Grbac. Grbac extended into the next decade and was followed by Trent Green, Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen, and Matt Cassel. How the team managed to succeed – particularly in the '90s -- with so many changes at this most important position must be seen as a credit to the team's coaching.
A few were liked but most not so much. Many of them understood they had an added responsibility to be the face of the team, to be its leader, and to speak to the media. Some had plenty to say and a few offered little worth remembering when they did speak.
The best of them, to me at least, included Montana, who during his time here spoke pretty much every day to the media which never happens these days. Trent Green and Damon Huard were also worthy of their role and their responses were more often thoughtful if measured, as any quarterback would be wise to be. To no surprise, both Green and Huard work in the media today.
Now, permit me a word about Matt Cassel, who it appears is done for the year after suffering a broken foot in his most recent role as quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. He was the last quarterback I worked with when I was in public relations, but I can't say I was as close to him as I was to Montana and some others.
The best photos of Matt Cassel from the 2011 season.
My impressions here have nothing to do with his abilities -- there are far better people to evaluate those than I am -- or the large sum of money he was paid, which is, like it or not, a starting NFL quarterback's due in this era. No, my impressions have to do with comportment: how a professional football quarterback undertakes his role as a public person and face of the team he leads.
Make no mistake, organized sport can be a merciless revealer of character, uncloaking a player and revealing his inner person. Quarterbacks can often become sardonic, cynical, and old before their time. But Cassel never seemed to fall victim to any of that no matter the circumstances he faced, and the time he played here was one of the lowest periods in team annals.
Never peevish or insulated, never watchful for hints of criticism, he showed a tolerance for perceived failure from a demanding public. Even when he was benched, he showed no hostility or open anger.
The team's results did little to enhance his reputation, but he was a credit to his profession than any caricature of him allowed then or has since. Anyone who knew him here would have liked him and respected him, too.