Brandon Weeden should still start over Matt Cassel

Despite a terrible outing against the Patriots, Sam Monson says Brandon Weeden should still hold the reins in Week 7.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Brandon Weeden should still start over Matt Cassel

Through three starts, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden has not played well.

You could argue that, with a 72.4 completion percentage and a 92.2 passer rating, he has; but ultimately, those numbers are as much a product of the offense as a whole than of anything Weeden has done himself. The Cowboys have an average depth of target of 7.2 yards down field with Weeden under center, 30th in the NFL.

His PFF passing grade of -3.3 is far more telling and descriptive.

That being said, benching him for Matt Cassel would be a ridiculous move.

The NFL, by and large, is a “What have you done for me lately?” league; the one exception to that rule is when it comes to backup or spot-starter quarterbacks. In that scenario, the rule seems to be “What have you done for somebody else years ago that we desperately hope you can repeat here?”

It is has been years since Matt Cassel looked like a viable NFL starter, or somebody who could come in and not lose games (which is about all Dallas wants from its quarterback until Tony Romo returns healthy). The last stretch of decent play Cassel produced was in 2011, and that probably represents a career high. Even in his 2008 season deputizing for Tom Brady (and leading the Patriots to enough wins to convince people he could be something in this league), his good play was punctuated by a few absolute disasters. In his worst three games that season, he posted a combined -19.5 grade, which would have been the worst total grade of that year, achieved in just three outings.

His most recent action—with the Minnesota Vikings in 2014—saw him threaten that kind of pace again. In just 146 snaps, he posted a -7.0 grade, and was worse if you only consider his passing grade.

Extrapolated over a season, that would have been the worst mark in the NFL—by a decent margin. In fact, if you combined the negative grades of Robert Griffin III, Geno Smith, and Brian Hoyer, they would still have graded better than the score Cassel was on pace to record.

The Cowboys might want to turn the reins over to an experienced, trusted veteran, because way back in the distant mists of time, he put together a few games that looked okay—that’s basically the same logic the Vikings used a year ago when they wanted him to hold things steady until Teddy Bridgewater was ready. Cassel was supposed to give Bridgewater a year to develop from the sideline, but he was such a disaster, a broken foot seemed like a blessing in disguise.

Cassel then lost a three-way quarterback battle in Buffalo with Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel.

I get it, starting Brandon Weeden is painful, and it is very unlikely to result in wins for the Cowboys. But, believe it or not, things can actually get worse, and Matt Cassel is capable of doing exactly that. Dallas just needs to grit its teeth and wait for Romo to ride back to the rescue.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Derrick

    Let’s be real. There’s no way that Cassel is worse than Weeden. If he can throw a ball outside the hashmarks, or hit an open receiver in the end zone, he’s the better quarterback, period.

    You guys tried to show how he’s horrible by extrapolating from a very limited two-game sample size – one against a the Super Bowl champions. And even then, his -7 across those starts is still very close to Weeden’s grade. So at worst, Cassel is a lateral move. At best, he might be able to squeeze out a win or two.

    • PFFSamMonson

      “Let’s be real. There’s no way that Cassel is worse than Weeden. If he can throw a ball outside the hashmarks, or hit an open receiver in the end zone, he’s the better quarterback, period.”

      This is where he falls down.

      • MrBoo

        He could throw to the other team also, Weedon at least does not do that. And some of the blame falls onto the coaching staff. Do you guys have the stats how many times the cowboys ran on first and/or second down. it looked to me 9 out of 10 times till the game was out of reach. No play action, no trick plays… this oline cant block 8 guys in the box

      • Derrick

        “This is where he falls down.”

        I don’t get it.

  • Alex

    What about Kellen Moore? He deserves a chance.

    • Derrick

      Just as a Boise native and Broncos homer, I’d love to see Moore get a shot in the NFL. But I doubt it would end well.

    • Tim Edell

      If you think Weeden can’t throw outside the numbers wait till you see noodle arm Kellen Moore attempt it.

  • JC

    Saying Weeden is better than Cassel or vice versa is like saying a tornado is better than an earthquake; they are both disasters.

    • crosseyedlemon

      You really need 3 to complete the disaster scenario so they should re-sign Jon Kitna.

  • timothy sorter

    you mean to tell me you are going to take weeden passing rating throwing dink ‘s & dunk’s & what the defense is going to give him !!! you not going to win game when you need 8 yrd’s & pass for 6,, or need 7 yards & pass for 5 ,,, or need 15 & pass for 12 yards , are you getting the picture yet ??? the defense plan that kind of game knowing that they can stop u with weeden you never change your game plan for weeden I seen romo do the same thing the fist two game ‘s except when he was able to call he’s own play’s at the line of scrimmage in & out of the two min drill weeden is no romo !! romo can make something out of nothing & see the whole field weeden can’t & any good college qb can do what weeden has done ! randal & McFadden are not even close to 1st string rb’s but jerry & coaches are to bull headed to change anything, anybody can run behind this line,, wrong last 5 games proved that see how far you get with your defense on the field 3/4 % of the game ! all the 3 & out you are getting any body who say’s there doing good 0-3 & 0-12 with weeden & blame a defense who tired playing that much !! when dallas has had great team is when they had a north, south, tough, stift arming , take more than one defender to bring him down, power rb,,, just a few smith, dorsett, walker, hill, do i need to go on !! fb Johnson, you seem to be stuck on certain player like you were in the past ( danny white qb )

  • Dr Freedom

    So we will lose with Weeden, but if we change to Cassel, we could lose. Weeden has lost 12 straight starts. He can’t throw down the field. Cassel at least has some good games in him.

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  • LeBronc

    So obviously Dallas coaches disagree with you Sam.
    Weeden has a history…it has shown a lack of full vision reads and going through progressions quickly. This allows to much time for the pocket to collapse etc. and his foot mechanics in the pocket are just terrible.
    This really isn’t a “ridiculous move” at all…sorry.