What Matt Cassel's injury means

Let’s look at the significant issues surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs after the news that quarterback Matt Cassel may be out for the rest of the season with a hand injury. He will require surgery and will, at least, miss several games:

What is Cassel’s future? I highly doubt we’ve seen the last of Cassel in Kansas City. He has been uneven, but the Chiefs appear to be committed to him at least for the short term. I expect Cassel to be the Chiefs’ starter in 2012.

The Chiefs’ season is likely over: This is not the time to lose your starting quarterback. After back-to-back home losses to Miami and Denver, the Chiefs are now 4-5 and enter a five-game stretch that features five 2010 playoff teams. Kansas City is struggling it is unlikely it will be able to withstand this tough stretch and stay in the AFC West race.

How much can one team take? Cassel’s injury is just another significant blow to this team. The Chiefs already lost star running back Jamaal Charles, star safety Eric Berry, and standout tight end Tony Moeaki to season-ending knee injuries. All of those injuries happened in September. These are the core players of this team.

Haley deserves a pass: There has been speculation throughout the season that Kansas City coach Todd Haley could be on the hot seat. But Cassel’s injury and the earlier major injuries have severely changed this team. The Chiefs’ record may not be impressive when the season is completed, but they are making strides, and Haley deserves to come back in 2012 with his full roster.

What should we expect from Tyler Palko? The left-handed quarterback is very inexperienced. Palko, 28, has thrown just 13 passes in the regular season since entering the NFL in 2007. He completed five of six attempts Sunday when he spelled Cassel late in the game. He was solid in the preseason, although he has had ball-security issues. Here is what Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks of Palko:

The best way to describe [Palko] is this: Coach’s son, a student of the game. Eats, sleeps and breathes it. Very coach-friendly. He’s a good athlete. He’s tough, smart. He’s a very average thrower of the football, but he has obviously worked on it quite a bit and he looks to be improving.

Is Ricky Stanzi a possibility? I think the only way we see Stanzi play this season is if the Chiefs are completely awful with Palko and fall out of the race. The impression I have gotten is the Chiefs don’t think the fifth-round pick is ready to play. But perhaps in December, we could see the Iowa product get a chance to show what he can do.

How the Chiefs can stay competitive: They are going to have to improve on defense and have a consistent running game. Let’s face it; it’s going to be very difficult for this team to win enough game to stay in the race. The 2011 season in Kansas City will be remembered as one that was ruined by injuries.

How this affects Dwayne Bowe: His numbers will likely suffer for the rest of the season, which may have a detrimental effect when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.I think now is the perfect time for the Chiefs and for Bowe to come to a contract accord to ensure his future in Kansas City. The Chiefs need to look to the future and Bowe needs to be part of it.

How this affects Jon Baldwin: It’s been a tough rookie season for the first-round pick. He missed time due to the lockout and then a thumb injury he suffered in a reported fight with teammate Thomas Jones in camp cost him two months. If he loses his starting quarterback, Baldwin and Cassel will not be able get in sync until next spring.