Houston Texans: Case Keenum

RTC: Reverse ranking Texans QBs

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...
  • Tortured Texans fan and Grantland writer Shea Serrano offers a reverse ranking of all the quarterbacks in Texans history. I'll let him explain.
    A Reverse Ranking is like a normal ranking, except instead of counting toward the best, or even toward the worst, it begins at an imagined bottom and works upward toward the least worst (but not the best). What that means is, OK, the Texans have had 13 men who have taken snaps at quarterback. A normal ranking would end with someone being at first place. But that can't happen here. There's no first place in Texans QB history. There's just a Not Last Place.

    Also in that post, look for the shoutout to T.J. Yates for being a very likeable guy and the section on how badly he wishes the Case Keenum experiment worked.

  • DeAndre Hopkins met Sammy Watkins on Watkins' recruiting visit to Clemson. They became fast friends when Watkins joined Hopkins at the university, writes Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle. This weekend, Watkins and Hopkins will face each other as the Buffalo Bills visit the Texans. Watkins insists Hopkins took him under his wing. Hopkins says Watkins didn't need anyone to take him under his wing.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick is eager to face his former team, writes Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press. Now, if only he could get his kids to all root for the Texans, instead of the Bills.

  • Mario Williams claims he'll have no feeling of nostalgia returning to Houston and doesn't care how he's received, writes John Wawrow of the Associated Press. Williams is one of two defensive No. 1 overall picks the Texans have selected. They took the other one in May, outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.

  • The Texans signed 14-year veteran nose tackle Ryan Pickett after placing rookie Louis Nix on injured reserve. Pickett is ready to contribute to their run defense, writes Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com. "They said they need help stopping the run and that's what I do," Pickett said.

Case Keenum will start Thursday

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
HOUSTON -- The final preseason game of the season is a time for the Texans to hone their 53-man roster and resolve various competitions on their depth chart.

Backup quarterback is among them.

To that end, Texans coach Bill O'Brien announced today that quarterback Case Keenum will start Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers with rookie Tom Savage relieving him at some point. Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick will dress, O'Brien said, and might play if a situation arises in which O'Brien wants to get him some work, but Savage and Keenum will take a vast majority of the snaps.

It will be like that at various positions, as it usually is in this final preseason game. What might be considered a throwaway to viewers who won't recognize a lot of the names, matters a lot to the players fighting for roster spots.

Keenum and Savage aren't exactly competing for roster spots. O'Brien stopped short of saying he would definitely keep three quarterbacks on his 53-man roster, but said that was "more than likely." Asked if the three quarterbacks he kept would be the three that are now with the team, O'Brien used the same language. He noted the time each player has spent with the team as being valuable to their worth to the Texans.

One of those two players will go into the regular season as the declared backup.

Of course, the same thing happened last season and didn't mean much. T.J. Yates was named the backup with Keenum staying inactive for the first six games of the season. Yates, though, had less than half a game of action once Matt Schaub went down with an injury before former coach Gary Kubiak named Keenum Schaub's official replacement.
HOUSTON -- The Texans' final drive of their third preseason game did a lot for rookie quarterback Tom Savage's confidence.

It also did a lot for his coaches' confidence in him.

"I would say it’s pretty close," Texans' coach Bill O'Brien said today about the backup quarterback competition. "I think it’s pretty close. We’re discussing that right now. Both guys had good moments last night, but I think that Tom Savage definitely closed the gap, and it’s pretty close."

Savage and Case Keenum have spent the past several months competing to be the team's backup quarterback. Keenum has eight games of starting experience from last season, while Savage barely even has college experience upon which to call.

The natural conclusion was that Savage would have a lot of work to do before being ready to play in the NFL.

And while O'Brien cautioned against getting too carried away with what Savage did in the 74-yard touchdown drive he led Saturday night, he was clearly impressed.

"We broke the huddle, and as a young quarterback when the referee leans into the huddle and he winds the clock you’ve got to get going, so he probably could have called the play before the referee wound the clock," O'Brien said. "So he ended up calling the play and then having to break the huddle, and it involved some motion and shifting and things like that.

"... It wasn’t confusion as much as it was he had to get going, and I thought that he kept his poise there really well. He was able to motion, I believe it was [Travis] Labhart, and then make the correct protection point, and then make the right read, and then make the throw, which is a good thing to see for us for a rookie quarterback to be able to do that, so I thought he handled that situation well."

eenum was still Ryan Fitzpatrick's backup as of O'Brien's press conference. Savage is making a push, though.

RTC: Texans QBs stay in order

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

Texans coach Bill O'Brien took a bit of an unconventional route with playing time for his quarterbacks this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan Fitzpatrick started the game, then left early for rookie Tom Savage. Fitzpatrick returned for a quick two-minute drill type situation and then Case Keenum finally went in as the last quarterback in the game. Normally, you have your second-team quarterback go into the game second. That gives him a chance to face second-team opponents, or even some starters. O'Brien said Keenum is still the Texans' second-string quarterback, a little bit ahead of Savage, writes Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com. He did not tell Savage ahead of time that he'd be getting second-team reps, instead surprising him with the news to see how he handled the pressure. O'Brien also talked about this being a bounce-back game for Fitzpatrick.

The order of the quarterbacks did not please Chris Baldwin of Houston Culture Map.

The contributions of rookies in Saturday night's game should not be overlooked, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. From first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to undrafted free agent pickup Anthony Denham, who made an important special teams play. Denham, by the way, has a personal story that will make you want to root for him.

The Chronicle's Brian T. Smith reviews O'Brien's Sunday press conference here, starting with the notion that the Texans were "juiced up" ready to avenge their blowout preseason-opening loss. In a way, the Texans got the best of both worlds. They got an early, wake-up-call thumping in a game whose final result doesn't really count.

Texans Camp Report: Day 11

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
HOUSTON -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Houston Texans training camp.
  • When practice began, coach Bill O'Brien didn't like how it was going, so he stopped the script and threw the team into something different. A grind-it-out, high-energy, live tackling goal-line drill. "I just put the ball at the 10-yard line and let’s play football, you know," O'Brien said. Immediately the energy at practice jumped. Jonathan Grimes took a handoff from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and scored. A few plays later, nose tackle Jerrell Powe blew up a running play, tackling running back Andre Brown behind the line of scrimmage. "It ended up being a goal-line situation. I thought that got the guys going a little bit and we ended up having a decent practice."
  • Early in practice, the second-team offense incurred O'Brien's wrath after a sloppy series. The entire unit had to run a lap together.
  • Rookie quarterback Tom Savage's reps have increased throughout camp. O'Brien said he is taking developmental reps and has had 130 7-on-7 or team drill reps in 11 practices. Savage's throws in practice have been a mixed bag. But his head is spinning less than it was when he arrived in Houston and that is evident. On one play, undrafted rookie defensive end Julius Warmsley arrived in the backfield in what might have been a sack if he was allowed to touch Savage. Savage coolly found receiver Travis Labhart in the end zone.
  • Backup quarterback Case Keenum is working on feeling more comfortable being uncomfortable. "Does that make sense? Just pushing the limits and trying to find some continuity with the guys you’re playing with. So, it’s getting better. It’s getting better every day. Still making mistakes every day, which you know I don’t like. But I think that’s what makes you better; not making the same mistakes."
  • The Texans have Wednesday off before returning to practice on Thursday and Friday. They'll face the Arizona Cardinals on the road on Saturday.

Texans Camp Report: Day 8

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
HOUSTON -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Houston Texans' training camp.

  • On the field it was DeAndre Hopkins day at Texans' training camp this morning. Every time I looked up, Hopkins was making another leaping catch. One particularly impressive one came during a red-zone drill in which quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found Hopkins in the end zone. Hopkins caught the ball with cornerback Brandon Harris draped on him, then held onto it as Harris tried to wrestle it out of Hopkins' gigantic hands as the two of them fell to the ground.
  • And by the way, that red-zone drill was great to watch. Actual hitting! In training camp! "That's how it's supposed to be every day," Kareem Jackson said. "We're supposed to be out here competing as a team. The more we can go full speed and live and compete against each other in game-type situations, it'll only make us better when game time comes."
  • The winner for most entertaining moment of practice goes to an interception by D.J. Swearinger (swag with three g's). He picked off Fitzpatrick during a drill where a line of offensive players stood just behind watching. Swearinger went forward full speed, moved aside the onlookers in his way and ran toward the end zone, high-stepping into it once he got there. By the time he got back to the drill, the offense was already well on its way to its next play.
  • The winner for biggest cheer of the day goes to a Shane Lechler punt that Jadeveon Clowney blocked.
  • Backup quarterback Case Keenum has had good moments during camp, but one thing that's obvious is his first instinct is still to run out of trouble. That's something the Texans' current staff and previous staff tried to fix in his game.
  • Sunday morning's practice will be open to the media but closed to the public. The Texans will start at 8:30 a.m. and wrap up around 11 a.m. They'll do their usual afternoon walk-through, too, and that will be closed to fans and media.
It appears that Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith and coach Bill O'Brien are doing everything they can to convince wide receiver Andre Johnson to attend the team's mandatory minicamp and organized team activities.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that Smith and O'Brien have been in contact with Johnson and are trying to ease his concerns. Rapoport also reported that Johnson's frustration with the Texans is not about the team's decision to not draft a quarterback until the fourth round but rather his concern about being part of another rebuild.

Johnson turns 33 on July 11 and is near the end of his career. The Texans' 2-14 record last season was due to more than just quarterback issues and it's going to take more than a season for the franchise to reach a level where it can compete with the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots in the AFC.

Drafting defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick, guard Xavier Su'a-Filo in the second round, and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and defensive tackle Louis Nix in the third round certainly addressed some of the Texans' biggest needs. However, Smith and O'Brien didn't draft a quarterback until taking Tom Savage in the fourth round and instead are going to rely whichever player emerges from the group of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates.

That's certainly not good news for Johnson, who is 55 receptions and 1,116 yards shy of cracking the top 10 list in both categories in NFL history.

Johnson said last week that he wasn't sure if Houston is still the place for him -- although he did not ask for a trade -- and that he wasn't going to attend the Texan's OTAs and mandatory minicamp June 17-19. A trade is unlikely to happen anyway considering the Texans would have $11.96 million in dead money on the 2014 salary cap.
Let's call this an occasional look at the Houston Texans' process of putting together the team they'll take to training camp. There are many steps left in this, but the Texans have made several moves since my last glance at their roster.

We'll start with offense today, and look at defense tomorrow afternoon.

Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum
Analysis: Fitzpatrick is the grizzled veteran of this group, signed in free agency to either hold the Texans over this season or mentor the rookie who they want to become the future of their franchise. They've said they'll add a quarterback or two in the draft, and coach Bill O'Brien indicated three weeks ago that Yates and Keenum would likely go into training camp with the Texans. Yates wants a real shot at being a starter, and I can't blame him. Last week, Yates said he hadn't yet gotten a sense of his role from the new staff.

Running back: Arian Foster, Andre Brown, Jonathan Grimes, Ray Graham, Dennis Johnson, Toben Opurum, Chad Spann
Analysis: Foster is the (now healthy) starter and he said he will participate in organized team activities. Brown offers a good veteran presence and is by all accounts a great guy. But the Texans will need him to stay healthy as he's had injury problems throughout his career. As I said on my video earlier today, the Texans will draft another player, somewhere in the mid-rounds, that could grow into Foster's backup.

Receiver: Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin, Mike Thomas, Alan Bonner, Alec Lemon
Analysis: This group doesn't need much work, though O'Brien mentioned the need for a slot receiver during a recent town hall. I'd love to see Posey incorporated more into the Texans' next offense.

Tight ends: Garrett Graham, Zach Potter, Ryan Griffin, Brad Smelley, Phillip Supernaw
Analysis: Griffin and Graham both return from last year's roster, with Graham suddenly something of an elder statesman in this group. Since the Texans have 11 draft picks, and could accumulate more before it's over, there could be another tight end added to the mix, but there doesn't have to be.

Offensive line: Duane Brown, Chris Myers, Derek Newton, Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones, Brennan Williams, Cody White, Alex Kupper, David Quessenberry
Analysis: Don't have to worry about left tackle, center or right guard right now. Brown, Myers and Brooks have those positions locked down. Left guard Wade Smith hasn't been (and probably won't be) re-signed and right tackle, which featured Newton as the starter and Ryan Harris on some plays, was a position of concern last season for the Texans. Quessenberry had a lot of people excited before he went on injured reserve with a broken foot last summer. He played tackle at San Jose State, but can play guard as well and could be a good fit at left guard. The Texans are reportedly visiting with Auburn tackle Greg Robinson next week. While that's likely a contingency plan if they trade down, it wouldn't be outrageous to think Robinson could come to the Texans and play right tackle to start his career.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- This morning's agenda at the NFL meetings included a media breakfast for the AFC coaches. I sat in on Bill O'Brien's hour with local and national media in which he discussed a lot of things but mostly the draft.

I'll get a little more in depth on what he talked about later, but first a few nuggets:
  • O'Brien, general manager Rick Smith and quarterbacks coach George Godsey will all be at Johnny Manziel's Pro Day on Thursday. This is separate from Texas A&M's Pro Day, one O'Brien called his "Johnny Day." While O'Brien likes having private workouts with quarterback prospects, when I asked if he has one with Manziel he said he doesn't think so.

  • Despite all the talk about what a bad Pro Day Teddy Bridgewater had, O'Brien thought he had "a decent day." He liked seeing the work Bridgewater had done to improve footwork and mechanics.

  • He'll meet several times with various prospects and what he's looking for from meeting to meeting is improvement. Did the guy learn something in the time between?

  • The plan right now is to take backup quarterbacks Case Keenum and T.J. Yates to training camp.

  • Asked about Jadeveon Clowney's work ethic, O'Brien said what's important is how he plays when it counts. "When the game's on the line, Jadeveon plays hard."

  • O'Brien loves watching J.J. Watt on film.

  • He values the ability to think quickly in a quarterback. O'Brien will ask for a lot of pre-snap decision-making.

  • Derek Carr's brother will have no impact on the Texans' evaluation of Derek Carr. "When we're thinking about a player, we're thinking about that individual player." The expansion Texans selected David Carr with the top overall pick of the 2002 draft and lasted five seasons before being waived.

    - O'Brien had dinner with Bills coach Doug Marrone last night. They laughed about how far they'd come together since their days at the bottom of Georgia Tech's totem pole. "We were laughing about, can you believe this?"
You knew when the Houston Texans signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a capable veteran who started last season in Tennessee.

But really, you knew long before that.

As soon as Matt Schaub threw his last pass of the season -- his last interception of the season -- the end to his story in Houston was written. The Matt Schaub era, once brimming with the promise of a fresh, young franchise hoping to establish itself, had ended.

There was just too much baggage between the Texans and Matt Schaub. It was time.

[+] EnlargeMatt Schaub
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Matt Schaub signed a four-year extension worth $62 million in 2012, but was unable to keep his starting job with the Texans.
This morning, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported that the Texans are expected to trade Schaub to the Raiders for a late-round pick in this year's draft. The Schaub era ended with 46 wins and 42 losses, 124 touchdown passes and 78 interceptions that included a haunting streak of picks that were returned for touchdowns -- a pick-six in an NFL record four consecutive games. His arm strength showed signs of having weakened at that point, and the psychological impact of those plays was clear. You could see it in the way he pounded his fists on the grass after one pick-six, you could see it in the slump in his shoulders as bad turned to worse in inexplicable fashion. There was no reason to expect the issues Schaub had last season, and yet there they were.

Just two years ago, the Texans anointed Schaub with a four-year extension worth $62 million with $24.75 million guaranteed. The deal became final the day before the 2012 season began and preceded an 11-1 start that made the Texans the hottest team in the NFL for a while.

Schaub was coming off a 2011 season during which he had his lowest completion percentage as a Texan, but he also helped lead the Texans to their first of two division titles. He missed the 2011 playoff run after fracturing his foot but returned healthy enough to inspire the organization's confidence.

When the problems began, things got ugly.

There were cheers at Reliant Stadium as Schaub lay on the grass when he suffered an ankle injury against the St. Louis Rams, the injury that ultimately led to Case Keenum replacing him as the starter. A grocery store near Schaub's neighborhood made a Halloween cake in the shape of a gravestone, marking the death of Schaub's arm. One photo circulated of a car in Houston with a mannequin in a No. 8 jersey protruding out of the trunk, meant to look like Schaub's body stuffed in the back. And, in one of the more bizarre stories from last season, Schaub's family reported trespassers to the police in an incident that was initially reported by a local radio station as having involved angry fans.

The most damning result of the ugliness came on the field the next time the Texans dared play Schaub at home. The boos got so loud the home team had to go to a silent count. His teammates were furious, not just at the tactical disadvantage they faced, but also at the way a man they still respected and liked was being treated.

Schaub, who closed his Twitter account during the season, tried his best to seem unaffected. But he wasn't fooling anybody.

And so, it had to be done.

In the past few weeks, we've talked a lot about the Texans' options at quarterback and whether or not they could find someone better than Schaub. That depends entirely on your definition of better. If you're looking purely at ability and statistics, Schaub was comparable to the quarterbacks who were options for the Texans, including Fitzpatrick. But unemotional analysis isn't enough in this situation.

The Texans are taking Schaub's $10 million salary and roster bonuses off the books for 2014, but will only gain about $4 million in cap space.

What they'll really gain is a much needed fresh start.
Consider these progress reports more than anything else.

Earlier today we reviewed where the Texans' roster stood defensively. Now we'll move onto offense, again with the understanding that this isn't what the roster will look like six months from now. There will be draft picks, free agents of the rookie and veteran kind and shuffling based on those moves.

It's valuable to look at where things stand now as a means of imagining how far the roster has to go.

With that we continue.

Quarterback: For all the talk of upheaval at this position, the three on the roster right now are the same three who were there when the season ended. Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates are all still Houston Texans. That is likely to change dramatically by the time the season starts, because even if the Texans don't draft a quarterback first overall, they'll take one at some point.

Running back: Arian Foster remains as the starter, which means the Texans are in pretty good shape here if he returns healthy from his back surgery. There was that Instagram video in which Foster did a back flip ... but no one was hitting him then. Dennis Johnson, Jonathan Grimes, Ray Graham, Toben Opurum and Chad Spann join him on the roster, giving the Texans a lot of options as they try to figure out who they'll keep as their backup, with Ben Tate gone, and who they'll keep as their third running back. Johnson showed promise last season. A draft pick could be part of the mix, too.

Receivers: Andre Johnson comes back for his 12th season after a frustrating 2013 campaign. DeAndre Hopkins and DeVier Posey will play important roles in the Texans' offense next season. As Posey worked to get fully healthy, many thought he should have seen the field more. Keshawn Martin is still on the roster in his third season. Young veteran Mike Thomas signed a futures contract the day after the Texans' season ended. He started his career in Jacksonville and caught that Hail Mary pass Glover Quin knocked down in 2010. Alan Bonner and Alec Lemon, both rookies who wound up on injured reserve last season, are also on the roster right now.

Tight end: Garrett Graham re-signed Thursday with a three-year deal worth $11.25 million and will be the Texans' starter. Houston signed Zach Potter in February and have Ryan Griffin and Phillip Supernaw in the mix. This group is a little bit raw, but solid.

Offensive line: You can rest easy about center, left tackle and right guard as Chris Myers, Duane Brown and Brandon Brooks return. Elsewhere, be fidgety. Right tackle and left guard are still concerns. Though last year's starting right tackle Derek Newton is back, this could be a position addressed in the draft, possibly even with the first overall pick. Left guard Wade Smith is a free agent, but there's a chance he could return to Houston. Without him, I could see Ben Jones starting there or a scenario where the promising sixth-round pick David Quessenberry moves from tackle to guard. Brennan Williams, Cody White and Alex Kupper also return. Williams had a significant knee injury that landed him on injured reserve last year.
Six months ago, many of us thought there was a decent chance the Texans would be preparing for the first Super Bowl in franchise history this week.

Instead, we continue to discuss what they might do with the top pick a little more than three months from now.

Let's get to it.

What went wrong? Quarterback

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
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?
A few days ago a reader posed this question to me:

It's a reasonable thing to ask, and I promised an answer in a blog post. (As an aside, I'll do this more frequently during the offseason. Thoughtful questions that require more than 140-character responses might get posts.)

When Texans owner Bob McNair fired former head coach Gary Kubiak, part of his decision was influenced by Kubiak's seeming indecision with his quarterbacks.

The night before being fired, Kubiak had pulled Keenum from the Texans' loss in Jacksonville to try and win with Matt Schaub. It was the second time Kubiak had pulled Keenum during a game after declaring the first-year player his starter. Keenum had struggled in both of those games and wasn't seeming to get better, but Kubiak's waffling only seemed to make things worse. Upon firing Kubiak, McNair declared that Wade Phillips would be interim head coach and Keenum would start the rest of the season.

"We need to find out whether Case is capable of being a starter or whether he's capable of being a backup," McNair said that day. "And the way you find that out is by playing him."

What McNair saw in the next game, before a thumb injury ended his season, was a quarterback who had trouble adjusting to pressure and who tried to use his legs to get out of trouble far too often. Sure, when his improvisation succeeded the results were impressive, but those times were the exception. It wasn't that Keenum didn't know what to do. Both he and Phillips said he did. Keenum just didn't react in the ways he knew he should. He made the wrong decision repeatedly.

In my post about the Texans' offensive line, I noted that Keenum averaged about 3.7 seconds from snap to sack, which is a decent amount of time. One commenter suggested that time was because Keenum bought time for himself while under pressure. The problem is, if you're buying time and then getting sacked anyway, that's not good either. It's part of why he led the NFL in yards lost per sack last season, losing an average of 10.58 yards per sack.

Maybe Keenum stopped trusting himself. Maybe with the right coaches and a competition, he'll recover and improve. Sometimes a quarterback improves later in his career, though few are given the chance for that kind of growth these days.

The problem is you don't know. He's not there yet, at the point where he has established himself as a capable starting NFL quarterback. Sure, there would be unknowns with a drafted rookie, too. But in that case, the same thing that worked for Keenum in October could go against him now. The less a quarterback has had a chance to show, the greater his potential upside.
Until his staff is complete, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien won't announce any member of it officially, despite the fact that many of them have already been working for weeks and are in Mobile, Ala., scouting players at the Senior Bowl.

One of the vacancies is offensive line coach. The Texans are hoping to land former Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame player as an Oilers lineman. That gives him instant credibility for a line that will need a little bit of tweaking before next season.

That's where we pick up our "What went wrong?" series. We've already examined safeties, running backs, inside linebackers, receivers, outside linebackers, tight ends and defensive linemen.

Key Players: LT Duane Brown, LG Wade Smith, C Chris Myers, RG Brandon Brooks, RT Derek Newton, T Ryan Harris, G Ben Jones

What went wrong?: There will be a large swath of Texans fans who don't want to hear this, but this unit got beat up verbally more than they should have been last season. Yes, there were protection breakdowns; no, the run blocking wasn't perfect every time. But they were seriously hampered by two things: an inexperienced quarterback who lacked an effective mental clock and ridiculous injuries to running backs, who are a big part of pass protection.

Case Keenum averaged 3.7 seconds from the time the ball was snapped to the time he was sacked, according to ESPN Stats & Info. While I didn't crunch this year's numbers, that figure would have been in the top third of the league when it came to most time between snap and sack last season, per numbers examined by Pro Football Focus.

The one position that was a major problem was right tackle, where Newton struggled in pass blocking. The Texans might have had more leeway there had third-round pick Brennan Williams been healthy. Williams spent the whole season on injured reserve.

Reason for hope?: If the Texans can land Munchak, his influence will be good for this group. Smith becomes a free agent in March, so that could be a position that changes. I'm not sure Smith was ever healthy this season, though he insisted he was. Myers and Brown had solid seasons and Brooks steadily improved and showed he can be a strong piece for the future of this line.