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Vikings' Cassel nearly joined Turner in Cleveland

By Chris Tomasson

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Who knows? Perhaps if quarterback Matt Cassel had signed with Cleveland last year and played well, Johnny Football might be somewhere else.

“You never know in this league,” Cassel said with a laugh.

After Cassel was released by Kansas City in March 2013, then Cleveland offensive coordinator Norv Turner wanted the Browns to sign him. But Cleveland brass elected instead to go with a cheaper option to compete with then-starter Brandon Weeden, and eventually inked Jason Campbell to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

Cassel signed a two-year, $7.4 million contract with the Vikings, and eventually became their starter. The Browns had a rough season at quarterback, and last month drafted Johnny Manziel in hopes of curing their woes.

Cassel opted out of his contract after last season before re-signing in March on a two-year, $10 million deal. One reason he returned was to work under Turner, who became Minnesota’s offensive coordinator the year after being unsuccessful in getting Cassel to Cleveland.

“I think that would have been at the time a good move for us,” Turner said. “I gave my evaluation (for the Browns to sign Cassel). … Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Cassel knew about Turner having interest in him. But it soon became apparent Cleveland officials wanted to go a cheaper route.

“I just remember that there were conversations about the Browns being a possible landing spot for me,” Cassel said. “Obviously, I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Turner.”

Cassel was flattered Turner had so much interest in him last year. Now, he has the best of both situations, having a lucrative contract and getting to play under Turner.

“I was excited when I heard that he was coming (to Minnesota),” Cassel said. “I was so excited about it, and now to be out here working with him, it’s really been a great experience.”

Turner has liked Cassel’s game for a number of years. Between 2009 and 2012, when Cassel played for the Chiefs and Turner was San Diego’s coach, the quarterback played seven games against the Chargers.

“I was very familiar with him,” Turner said.

Now, Turner finally is working with Cassel. The 10-year veteran is learning Turner’s up-tempo scheme that involves a complex numbers system for play calls.

Turner, who has 15 years of experience as an NFL head coach and earned two Super Bowl rings in the 1990s as Dallas’ offensive coordinator, is the eighth coordinator Cassel has had in seven seasons. Cassel is hopeful he finally can get some stability in a situation in which there is mutual respect.

“In 31 years in the NFL, (Turner has) coached Super Bowls, he’s coached Pro Bowlers, he’s coached everything he could possibly do,” Cassel said. “And this system has been proven to work. With his reputation, he’s lived up to all my expectations, and I think that we’re all very lucky to have him here.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.