Friday, January 24, 2014
What went wrong? Quarterback
By Tania Ganguli
It was a long, sordid journey, but we finally reach the end.
For the past couple of weeks, we've taken a position-by-position look at what went wrong with the Houston Texans this season.
Should you care to relive the disaster that was the Texans' 2013 season, peruse through the rest of the series which has examined safeties, running backs, inside linebackers, receivers, outside linebackers, tight ends, defensive linemen, offensive linemen, cornerbacks and special teams.
Today we reach the most talked-about position this season: quarterback.
Key players: Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates
What went wrong: Frequently during the offseason between 2012 and 2013 I was told that Matt Schaub was going to surprise me. Inside Reliant Stadium, there was a firm belief that Schaub's 2013 would be better than his 2012 season. He would have better receiving options and better protection, they figured.
As it turned out, Schaub did surprise me. But in a different way.
When Schaub threw his first pick-six of the season, he recovered well. Against the Titans he followed the interception by leading a game-tying drive that preceded an overtime win. The next week he threw another pick-six, this time to the Baltimore Ravens, then one to Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and another on his first pass against the San Francisco 49ers. That 49ers game was a complete disaster for Schaub. It was the only game this season when Schaub never looked comfortable. He threw three interceptions and was benched for Yates, his backup for the first six weeks of the season.
When Schaub suffered an ankle and foot injury against the St. Louis Rams in Week 6, Yates came in as his backup and struggled, too. He threw another pick-six, making that five consecutive weeks a Texans quarterback threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Another dubious NFL record. That performance, along with the fact that then-head coach Gary Kubiak felt he had little to lose at that point, led to a shift in the Texans' quarterback landscape. Looking for a spark, Kubiak turned to the spirited first-year player Case Keenum.
(Aside: first-year player is different from rookie. This was Keenum's first year on a 53-man roster).
Keenum provided the occasional glint. He exceeded expectations in his first start against the Kansas City Chiefs when he completed 15 of 25 passes and threw one touchdown pass. His first half was better than his second half, and the game ended shortly after Keenum fumbled as he was sacked. His performance pleased Kubiak enough that Keenum kept the starting job. But from then on, Keenum was more easily solved by opposing defenses with each passing week. It didn't help that he was benched twice during games in hopes that Schaub could come in as a closer.
That situation didn't help Schaub either. His absence from the starting lineup erased any chemistry and timing he had with the receivers. It showed.
Reason for hope?: With the first pick in every round of the draft, if the Texans think there's a quarterback who can be their franchise player, they'll get him. Of course, there is no guarantee they think that guy is there. Even if they do, there is no guarantee he will become a successful franchise quarterback. That's part of the fun, isn't it?