Matt Cassel shares memories of trade to Kansas City, making Pro Bowl with Chiefs
Quarterback Matt Cassel performed well after being thrust into a starting role with the Patriots in 2008, throwing for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
After starter Tom Brady's knee was injured in this season opener against the Chiefs, Cassel took over and then started the next 15 games. New England finished with an 11-5 record, but missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
After the Patriots finished the regular-season slate with a win at Buffalo, Cassel arrived home late that Sunday. He grabbed some Taco Bell and he his wife opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the end of the season.
"It was just like, 'Whew, what just happened?' " Cassel told Zach Brook on the "Upon Further Review" podcast.
Cassel would ask that question a few months later. After being given the franchise tag with the Patriots, Cassel was traded to the Chiefs, who were coming off a 2-14 season.
"We started to see that Tom was going to be healthy. I figured I was going to get traded," Cassel said. "And I didn't really anticipate it being the Kansas City Chiefs, to be honest with you, even though (general manager) Scott Pioli, who I had a relationship with from New England, went there.
"But when it actually all was said and done, I got a phone call from Bill (Belichick). And he said, 'Matt, I want to thank you for what you did, I've got a lot of respect for you. But we did trade you to the Kansas City Chiefs.'
"And I was like, 'OK, here's the next chapter.' At the same time, there's a lot that goes into when you get traded, you're now the franchise guy, and you're moving to a brand new city again, you have to build that relationships, that rapport with your team that's looking at you as the figurehead. And there's a lot of responsibility that comes with it, especially when you go to a struggling team in the prior years. We're in a rebuilding process. So I knew it was going to be a difficult task to turn this thing around and get it going in the right direction."
The Chiefs improved to 4-12 in 2009, then won the AFC West the following season with a 10-6 record.
Before the season, Cassel had set out four goals: to get double-digit victories, win the West, make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. He checked off three of those boxes as well as a personal goal.
"To get the honor of going to the Pro Bowl was just icing on the cake. ... I lot of hard work went into it and it's obviously not all me," Cassel told Brook. "I had a lot of great help along the way with all my teammates Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe went to the Pro Bowl that year; he was incredible.
"My offensive line did a great job. So I give credit to those guys. But I got to go and be at the pinnacle of pro sports, which is go (and) sit there next to Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and all these guys. Matt Ryan was there. You get to hang out with your peers, you know, and that, to me, was a special moment that I'll never forget, I flew my family out, my brothers, my sister, her my wife's family just to be there and experience it because it's so unique to be there amongst greatness. And so I always will covet that moment for sure."
Cassel, who retired after the 2018 season, appeared in 107 games with the Chiefs, Patriots, Vikings, Titans, Bills, Cowboys and Lions.
Although he last played for the Chiefs in 2012, he still keeps up with the franchise. And he approves of the moves made during the offseason to improve the offensive line.
"With (Eric) Fisher and (Mitchell) Schwartz at the end of the year being out and moving on from them, but then going and getting Orlando Brown Jr. from the Ravens, that was huge," Cassel said. "Bringing in Joe Thuney from the Patriots. I mean, that's really what they needed to do is fortify that line. Because if they protect Patrick Mahomes, I mean, we all know, what a special player he is, and then not only that he's surrounded by guys like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, they were able to get (Demarcus) Robinson and resign him as well.
"So they're gonna have all the weapons that they had at their disposal last year. Now, if they can shore up that offensive line, keep that offensive line healthy. They're going to be just as explosive and exciting of a team to watch as they have been in the past."