KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Rich Gannon had an immediate thought when he heard the Chiefs hired Charlie Weis as their new offensive coordinator, relieving head coach Todd Haley of the play-calling chores.
"If anybody's ecstatic about this," said Gannon, the former Chiefs quarterback, "it should be Matt Cassel."
Gannon's comment was rooted less in the abilities of Haley or Weis, even though Weis has the reputation as something of a quarterback guru. As the Patriots' offensive coordinator, he helped develop Tom Brady. As the Notre Dame head coach, he worked with Jimmy Clausen, who will be one of the top passers available in this year's draft.
To Gannon, it's more about the needs of Cassel. Gannon, now a CBS analyst who called several Chiefs games last year, said he saw a developing quarterback who needed the day-to-day nurturing that only regular and plentiful contact with the offensive play-caller can provide.
"All the good quarterbacks spend so much time with the play-caller, they can finish each other's thoughts," Gannon said.
After leaving the Chiefs, Gannon went on to become a star for the Raiders. In Oakland, he played for coach Jon Gruden, who like Haley last year served as offensive coordinator but found a way to make it to all of the offensive meetings.
"That's critical," Gannon said. "When I was with Gruden, he was in every meeting I was in. I don't care who it is, if you're calling plays, you've got to spend a lot of time with your quarterback.
"I never went out on the field when I didn't know exactly what Gruden wanted or what he was thinking. That made my job a lot easier."
The Chiefs may have no more important task next season than to make Cassel's job easier. Between receivers who led the NFL in dropped passes to blockers who allowed plenty of sacks to a defense that repeatedly put the Chiefs in a hole, Cassel received little help on the field this season.
Off the field, he would spend time with Haley when the head coach was able, but otherwise, Cassel didn't have a resource like he will with Weis this year.
Cassel was more muted about the issue than Gannon, but in agreement just the same. He said at one point during the season he didn't get enough meeting time with Haley.
"Now that Charlie is here, it will be great to have a guy who can concentrate totally on the offense," Cassel said.
Weis left the Patriots for Notre Dame in 2005 just a couple of months before New England drafted Cassel. But Cassel said he heard plenty about Weis over the years from Brady.
"I know he loved him as a coach," Cassel said. "He talked about him all the time and would always tell me what a huge impact he had on his career. He tells me he's a great leader and a great coach and he provides great direction."
Haley was also frustrated last season that he didn't have an adequate amount of time to work with Cassel. He initially had Chan Gailey as the offensive coordinator, but Haley fired Gailey during the preseason when the two couldn't solve their philosophical differences.
"Todd Haley is the head coach," Gannon said. "He's got all these other responsibilities. You can never get enough time.
"Todd told me at one point during the season that he liked the road games the best because he could sit next to Matt on the plane and they could go through everything, all the different game situations and the first 20 plays and third downs and all of those things. That's because he was trying to catch up from what they missed during the week."