According to Scott Pioli, the Chiefs aren’t in the market for a quarterback and Matt Cassel is safe as their starter. Cassel says he’s working hard to turn the corner, but even though Todd Haley doesn’t doubt him, fans do.

A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.

According to Scott Pioli, the Chiefs aren’t in the market for a quarterback and Matt Cassel is safe as their starter. Cassel says he’s working hard to turn the corner, but even though Todd Haley doesn’t doubt him, fans do.

If character is what matters when you’re up against it, then Cassel will need plenty of moral fiber, because fans will be extra picky in 2010.

I’m on the fence with Cassel – I guess stuck in the middle. I’m not sold, but I’m not counting him out. I wasn’t blown away by him, because too many times he looked like a guy just manning the helm instead of commanding it, but he got my respect with the amount of lumps he took. He came across as a tough guy and I like that.

I haven’t formed a solid opinion, but I suppose I’m with the minority. I think it’s too early to tell if he is or isn’t a franchise quarterback. The jury’s still out, but next season is important for Cassel. It will either help him or justify what many already feel.

I think Cassel knows that.

We all have been faced with tough times or with people who made it difficult. Adversity is a deciding factor, because it affects a person a couple ways – either they’ll get angry and stop or they’ll keep moving.

Fans are saying what Cassel can’t do, but it hasn’t fazed him; he’s trying to prove he wants to be better. The same attitude that helped him endure every sack Cassel’s taken into the offseason. Instead of leaving town and putting football a thousand miles away, he stayed put, doing boring stuff like watching game film. He’s doing the extra work, like self examination, and asking offensive coordinator Charlie Weis how he can improve. Fans are struggling with the believability of Cassel, but I’m starting to see the likability. He’s got desire, and that’s why Pioli likes him.

Dick Vermeil was a sucker for heart. He looked for that sort of thing in a player – just ask Trent Green. In fact Cassel should give Green a call, because I’m sure he’d give him some good advice. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Green wasn’t feeling the love after coming to Kansas City, not at first. The local media quickly gave him the name “Tr-INT” for his knack for throwing the ball to the other team. It was a hard first year for Green, but Vermeil never wavered from his decision to trade for him. Green, who was drafted as the 26th pick in the eighth round and 222nd overall by the San Diego Chargers, became a fan favorite.

In the end, Vermeil was right and fans were wrong.

It just took time for people to warm up to him, but Green had the heart. It’s no secret what Cassel makes and where he ranks with the other big money quarterbacks. Does he have the talent of Peyton Manning or Drew Brees? I’d be lying if I said yes, because I don’t have the proof.

The big contract has fans puzzled. What does Pioli see? It’s a fair question, and fans aren’t wrong in asking, because that much “tru$t” by Pioli has put Cassel in a pickle.

Pioli strikes me as the old fashioned kind. He tells reporters he’s not about the name or the sizzle. He talked about Cassel’s desire to learn and his work ethic when he first traded for him. What Pioli wants people to see with Cassel is the invisible ingredient – the factor that’s hard to explain or measure. It’s the magic, the juice, the stuff, the extra gear that overachievers find when roadblocks happen. In other words, it’s what the underdog discovers when he’s counted out.

By the way, nothing is set in stone in the NFL and no general manager goes into a big contract without an escape hatch. Pioli’s a patient man, but he’s not going to wait forever. We probably have the next two seasons to see if Cassel develops.

It’s always difficult when you have to work 10 times harder than the next guy, but that’s what Pioli likes about Cassel. Cassel may never have the raw talent of a Manning, but with enough desire and heart he can still succeed.

Talent is important, and you need it to perform, but it’s not the deciding thing when it comes to achieving success or who becomes successful. Point blank, in order to justify the pay and the praise, the former seventh-round pick is going to have to work harder than all the rest. Then one day, with more talent around him, it’ll come effortlessly. At least that’s the hope.

THE DRAFT: Playing for the Chiefs last year would have been a challenge for any quarterback regardless of paycheck. I feel much of the animosity fans have toward Cassel is the fact that he came from someplace else. He was someone else’s guy before he came to Kansas City.

Fans are longing for a “homegrown” quarterback. They want someone they can hang their hat on and say we found him, we developed him, and you can’t have him.

Tony Gonzalez was that type of player for Kansas City, and the same could be said for Derrick Thomas. These players represented Kansas City well and when their name was mentioned, everyone knew they were a Chief.

Many fans are hoping the draft will bring a franchise quarterback. The Charlie Weis-Jimmy Clausen connection is fueling rumors that the Chiefs could draft Clausen. John Clayton with ESPN hinted toward it, mentioning Cassel’s situation as essentially a one-year deal and that he’s due a $7.2 million bonus next year if on the roster.

Pioli isn’t tipping his hand, but he is defending Cassel and telling folks he’s behind him. So, in my opinion, this is just a bunch of speculation. In the over 300 mock drafts I looked at, none had the Chiefs taking Clausen.

But to be fair, only a couple had the Chiefs taking Tyson Jackson with the No. 3 last year. So who really knows? Anything can happen on draft day.

Another quarterback fans mention is Sam Bradford. He could be a top-five pick, but the scenarios I saw if Bradford were to go at No. 5 had the Chiefs trading out of their fifth spot to someone like Buffalo or Cleveland so they could draft Bradford – not the Chiefs.

My personal choice – and one that’s showing up on most mock drafts – is an offensive lineman. Not as sexy as a franchise quarterback, but an important piece. I wanted the same thing last year.

In Marty Schottenheimer’s second year he drafted four offensive lineman, including center Tim Grunhard and guard Dave Szott. That turned out well, because the Chiefs went 11-5 that year and both Szott and Grunhard started as rookies. I’m a firm believer in the horses up front and that alone could do wonders for Cassel, especially for Jamaal Charles.

Come back, because with the next column, I’ll start into the particulars of who the Chiefs might take in April’s draft. March is just around the bend, so April will be here before you know it. Hopefully it’ll bring some warmer weather. There’s plenty to talk about, but that’s what all Chief fanatics say.

Good day, Chief fans!