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.