The status quo, Romeo Crennel knew, wouldn’t do. If the 1-5 Chiefs were to emerge from their bye and make something of a season that so far has gone horribly bad, they needed to do something drastic.
What he did as the Chiefs returned on Monday to begin preparations for Sunday’s game against Oakland at Arrowhead Stadium qualifies as drastic. He benched longtime starting quarterback Matt Cassel, now healthy and medically cleared to play after his recent concussion, and replaced him with Brady Quinn.
“The circumstance that you’re in, you have to decide what you want to do to try to change it,’’ Crennel said. “I decided to change the quarterback.
“Sometimes I look at the team and feel like we’re pretty close. Then other times I look at the team and feel like we’re not real close. So you try to evaluate and figure out what you need to do to impact the team and change some things because it seems like we’re in a rut.
“Probably the most impactful move I could make to get everybody’s attention was to change the quarterback. I think that will get everybody’s attention. Hopefully, that impacts the team because the quarterback position is the one with the spotlight on him.’’
Crennel stressed the change wouldn’t be just for the Oakland game.
“I want (Quinn) to be the starting quarterback without having to look over his shoulder,’’ Crennel said. “There’s going to be no quick hook or anything like that.’’
There are long-term ramifications to Crennel’s decision. Until recent weeks, Cassel’s status as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback had been unchallenged since he was acquired in a 2009 trade with New England. The Chiefs had avoided bringing in a quarterback capable of so much as competing with him for the job.
Now it’s going to be difficult for the Chiefs to eventually return Cassel to the starting lineup except in an emergency. This decision, though, was all about the present.
“The only future I thought about was this coming Sunday,’’ Crennel said. “We’ve been playing hard, but we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot. We’ve been spinning our wheels. We’re doing something to try to change that, to keep those wheels from spinning and try to get ourselves on some solid ground so we can get some traction and maybe be able to do something.’’
Cassel did not play in the Chiefs’ most recent game, a 38-10 loss to Tampa Bay two weeks ago, because of a concussion.
Up to that point, he had been statistically the NFL’s worst starting quarterback. He threw nine interceptions and lost five fumbles in his five games this season and is the league’s lowest-rated passer.
Early this month, before Cassel’s injury, Crennel hinted he was contemplating a change from Cassel to Quinn.
“Am I going to say I’m happy about the situation? Absolutely not,’’ Cassel said.
“I’m frustrated. But at the same time, I’m the team captain on this team. I care about this team. As we move forward, I’m a big boy. I’m not going to hang my head. I’m going to do what I’ve always done which is work hard, work tremendously hard. I’ve said this from day one: We’ve got a great (quarterback group), and my role has changed at this point. I’ll support Brady Quinn and get him ready to play. That’s my role as a teammate and the captain of this team.
“I can’t tell you I saw this coming. But at the same time when you’re 1-5 and your team is struggling and the coach wants to find a way to spark the team, he felt like this was the best way to do it.’’
Crennel said coaches and other players were as much at fault for the Chiefs’ miserable season as Cassel. But he said he wasn’t considering any other lineup changes.
“It’s a team thing,’’ Cassel said. “We all wish we would look back and say we’ve had a better season up to this point, played better. But collectively we haven’t put it all together and I was part of the problem, and so were a lot of us.
“He’s made his decision. I can (whine) and complain but at the same time it is what it is. I’ll move forward and this team is going to move forward. I’m going to do whatever I can to be ready if my opportunity comes again.’’
Quinn completed 22 of his 38 pass attempts against Tampa Bay but for only 180 yards. He threw two interceptions, though both bounced off Chiefs receivers.
The Chiefs managed just three points on offense.
“I thought in the Tampa game he showed some poise, he ran the offense,’’ Crennel said. “He was a little rusty, but I think with playing time and practice time, I anticipate him and expect him to be better and be able to lead this team.’’
Quinn was a first-round draft pick of the Browns in 2007. But he started just 12 games for Cleveland before his career did a nosedive.
The Browns traded him to the Broncos in 2010, and his start against Tampa Bay was his first in almost three years.
The change provides him with a chance to jump-start his career.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,’’ he said.
“Coming off last week, we have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited about the opportunity to play. What it really comes down to it is that I’m not worried about anything else except trying to get better this week. I’m focused on Oakland and the game plan.’’