The Tennessee Titans saw value in Matt Cassel’s experience as a veteran backup quarterback.
They signed him to a one-year contract early in free agency to serve as Marcus Mariota’s backup, and then quickly moved on from 2015 backup Zach Mettenberger as a part of that process.
For 14-plus games this season, Cassel has mostly stood on the sideline, observing, offering occasional advice. He had thrown exactly one pass before being forced into action late in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss in Jacksonville after Mariota suffered a broken fibula that ended his season with one game reamining.
Cassel now takes the reins of the Titans in the season finale with no playoffs to play for, but with a young team eager to post its first winning season in five years, if the Titans can defeat the Houston Texans on Sunday.
The game also represents a bit of a potential payoff for Cassel, who at age 34, has run the gamut as an NFL quarterback, going from a young apprentice for Tom Brady in New England to being a big money starter in Kansas City to now being a journeyman backup here with the Titans on a one-year contract.
“I love the game, first and foremost. I love playing football,” Cassel said. “I love the camaraderie of being part of the team. If I didn’t it would be tough to do all the different roles I have throughout my career. I enjoy coming to work every day, and I’ve got a great support system (at home).”
Cassel wants to do well and lead the Titans to victory, but also won’t put too much pressure on himself to audition to be here in 2017. Though that would probably be the ideal situation, he won’t look past the task before him this Sunday.
“You can’t go into a game and put too much pressure on yourself,” Cassel said. “At the same time, every time you step on the field, it’s an opportunity to showcase yourself. You can’t worry about the next day as a whole or the next year as a whole. You’ve just got to go out and worry about this week.”
Cassel was asked how much longer he wants to continue playing and replied, “I think I’m in my prime. Honestly, I feel good. God willing, I’ll continue to play and hopefully it all works out that way.”
Titans coach Mike Mularkey said the team knows what Cassel can do, and his value to the team goes beyond just his brief moments of game action.
“I think Matt has shown a lot here in game time and game days. I think that has helped make that decision,” Mularkey said. “I’ve enjoyed having Matt here and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to.”
For now, Cassel turns his attention to being the Titans’ starter on Sunday – back in the saddle and getting plenty of reps as in days past for him.
“This week is obviously a little bit different. I haven’t had this many reps since training camp,” he said. “It’s good to be back out there. Obviously with the circumstances, it’s unfortunate for Marcus, but at the same time, I’m gonna do be best and go out there and get prepared and get ready to go.”