Imposter syndrome can be challenging . Personally, I have a hard time feeling confident in my work and when I look at the stars that surround me, from Clara to Kofie, Jon to Joe, it makes those thoughts seem more justified. But if I have any advice for myself, or anyone else with similar feelings (especially people early in their careers), it would be a single statement:
Everyone’s faking it.
No one really knows what they’re doing. They’re just figuring it out as they go. Some do so more confidently than others, but that just means they’ve come to terms with it. Life genuinely becomes better and mistakes are easier to process when that truth is acknowledged. This is the case no matter the profession or proficiency level. Do you really think we would’ve sent people into space if the brains behind the endeavor actually understood what that meant? Shit no. Space is scary. But when enough people are collectively faking it in the same direction, wild things can happen.
With that important lesson in mind, I’d like to introduce you to a play that is very special to me. It could be viewed as a disgrace to quarterbacking, or as just a mediocre player failing hilariously, but I think more than anything else it’s a reminder that it’s okay: we’re all frauds.
If you’d prefer Youtube, here’s a link, but the NFL likes to block their videos from being played anywhere outside YouTube. Some could call that stupid or selfish, or a denial of free publicity, but that’s just the NFL living their truth.
Anyway, on this play Matt Cassel managed to do two of the big QB no-nos simultaneously. Individually, throwing an interception or getting flagged for intentional grounding is commonplace, but it’s extremely impressive to achieve both at the same time. What’s most unfortunate about all this is it’s actually the outcome of Matt trying to avoid a negative play.
He looked left, and saw what would surely be a pick-six if he threw the screen to Cole Beasley. So he adjusted! Figuring it out as he went, Matt knew that he had Dez Bryant on the other side. But as he changed plans he stumbled, then to avoid a sack he tossed the ball where only Darrelle Revis could catch it.
If we take a quick freeze frame…
… Matt’s looking right at Dez. He should’ve also been able to see that no one else had a route taking them to the area he was about to throw to. This was a decision made with the hopes of accepting defeat, and moving on to the next down, where he could once again just try to figure something out. Instead it became a monument to ineptitude, albeit one that doesn’t wash away everything else Cassel accomplished.
This is the same guy we met after Tom Brady’s torn ACL thrust him into the starting position in New England. He’s the same guy that led that Patriots team to 11 wins. He’s still the exact same guy who played well enough that New England flipped him for a second-rounder that became future-Hall-of-Fame safety, Patrick Chung. Does that mean Cassel is the equivalent of a Hall-of-Famer? Technically. Sort of.
Sure, his performance in that game against the Jets led to the Cowboys benching him in favor of Kellen Moore the following week, but I’m not here to judge the actions of Matt Cassel. He tried to throw the ball away, he failed to throw the ball away, and he paid double for his actions. That’s okay. No one remembers this play! Sure, I do because I’m a broken Cowboys fan who needs a laugh, and now I suppose you do too because I’m sharing it with you, but that’s fine!
The point is that this transitive Hall-of-Famer, in his 11th season in the NFL, was still figuring it out as he went. Had he just been flagged for intentional grounding or just thrown a pick, this particular play would have blended seamlessly into the countless other times that’s happened to a quarterback. Some might even argue that doing both at once makes Matt Cassel an overachiever. For me, it’s simply an example of someone playing one of the toughest positions in all of team sports, and playing it at the highest level possible, reminding everyone that we’re all the same.
The lesson here is that even if you find yourself throwing your equivalent of that Cassel pass, who cares? Everyone will, at some point in their life, and that’s okay.
Oh, and the other life lesson from this play is don’t be the asshole who calls intentional grounding on an intercepted pass. That’s just being rude for the sake of being rude.