Houston Texans: Matt Schaub

Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

Back on the clock after taking last week off. Thanks to Mike DiRocco, our Jaguars reporter, for filling in while I was out.

Let's get to some headlines.

The Houston Texans' organized team activities begin today and as it does, coach Bill O'Brien is looking to put his stamp on his new(ish) team, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. McClain calls it the beginning of the Bill O'Brien era because it's the first time veterans and rookies will volunteer to practice together.

In case you missed this story from Friday, former Texans' quarterback Matt Schaub spoke with Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group and talked about taking over as the Oakland Raiders' quarterback. He discussed his lack of freedom in Gary Kubiak's offense.

Offseasons are for competitions, real or imagined, and Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com examines five possible position battles for the Texans. He includes kicker, inside linebacker, defensive end, slot cornerback and right tackle. I'll be interested to see how right tackle Derek Newton develops with a new coaching staff. I'll be very interested to see what the Texans do with that third corner position -- one that's incredibly important and can be more difficult technically than the outsides sometimes.

Marc Vandermeer, the voice of the Texans, addresses tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz's role with the team. He was drafted to be a "Y" tight end, the blocking tight end expected to run short and intermediate routes. Fiedorowicz was considered by many as the best blocking tight end in the draft.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- With a new head coach handling the roster he's building, Texans general manager Rick Smith wanted to offer something of a fresh start.

That was, in essence, what happened when they traded Matt Schaub.

"You don't go from being an effective quarterback playing at a high level like Matt did, and have one year where you just fall off, and can't play the game," Smith told me this afternoon. "It's not like Matt can't play. I think Matt can still play effective football in this league and I think that he will.

"To me it was the right time for our organization as we start continuing this foundation that we're building with coach [Bill] O'Brien and his staff that we did it in a way that we started fresh. I think that was best for him. That's why I worked so hard to find a situation that was a good one for him and a club that [understood his] value and worth."

That deal came together slowly as the Texans and Oakland Raiders, who sent Houston a sixth-round pick in exchange for Schaub, hashed out details. As it happened, former Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick became available during that process. The Texans, who had said they would sign a veteran quarterback regardless of any other circumstance, filled that void.

To me, the activity around the signings, re-signings and trades of veteran quarterbacks means teams are making sure they aren't put in a position where they're forced to start one of the rookies. Smith disagreed that it was any more active than normal.

"There's an importance placed on that position," Smith said. "If you have a good one you want to keep him and if you don't have one you're trying to find him."

In that process of trying to find him, Smith's view on the quarterback situation is similar to his coach's.

"There's some depth in this draft class in general and I think one of the positions that illustrates that is the quarterback position," Smith said. "A lot of people talk about the three guys -- Manziel, Bortles, and Bridgewater -- but there's some good quarterbacks out there, the whole group."

Double Coverage: Matt Schaub

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
SchaubJim Brown/USA TODAY SportsThe Oakland Raiders believe quarterback Matt Schaub can rebound this season.
The Oakland Raiders acquired two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Schaub from the Houston Texans on Friday and Raiders coach Dennis Allen immediately anointed the 10-year veteran his starter, even as he already had Trent Edwards, Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor on his roster.

Schaub, though, is coming off a career-worst year in which he was often booed at home, threw a flurry of interceptions returned for touchdowns, lost his starting job and had a career-low total quarterback rating of 43.65. In fact, Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson saw his new quarterback's fall from grace as a blessing in disguise, saying, “Had he not had the season he had last year in Houston, he wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Texans reporter Tania Ganguli broke down Schaub and his leaving Houston for Oakland.

Paul Gutierrez: It was obvious that Schaub bottomed out last year. The question is why -- was it more mental or physical?

Tania Ganguli: There was certainly a physical aspect to it. His arm strength wasn't what it had been. But a bigger part of it was mental. You can't pin everything that went wrong with the Texans' offense on Schaub. But the pick-six is such a catastrophic play that the streak of four games with one thrown was mentally very taxing on both the team and the quarterback. I've heard a lot of people around him say that his pick-six to Richard Sherman (his third of last season) was the one that ultimately crushed his confidence.

Do you think Oakland is a place where he can regain his confidence?

Gutierrez: So long as the offensive line holds up and gives him time. The Raiders have made a concerted effort to overhaul the offensive line since free agency began, picking up left tackle Donald Penn, right tackle Austin Howard and guard/center Kevin Boothe. The Raiders also got a veteran receiver in former Packers wideout James Jones, so general manager Reggie McKenzie has been building around the quarterback position, so to speak, to get a veteran signal-caller to serve as a bridge, of sorts. Schaub fits that description, no? Thing is, McKenzie and his scouts have failed thus far at identifying and settling on a franchise quarterback. They inherited Carson Palmer, but traded him away in favor of Matt Flynn, who bombed. Then they zeroed in on USC’s Matt Barkley last spring in the draft before the Philadelphia Eagles swooped in and took him. They used a fourth-round draft pick on Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, who was cut a couple of times and ultimately picked off their practice squad by the Tennessee Titans. Finally, they seemed to botch the handling of Terrelle Pryor and undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. With the money owed Schaub, unless he restructures his contract, the Raiders believe he will regain his confidence.

And yet, after last season’s debacle, is Schaub the kind of guy who would benefit from a mere change of scenery?

Ganguli: ESPN Stats & Info passed along some stats that support your skepticism, but I think a change of scenery will be great for Schaub nonetheless. First their points: Schaub has declined over the past three seasons in stats like first down percentage, total QBR, yards per attempt and interception percentage. The dramatic drop in QBR (from 67 in 2011 to 64 in 2012 to 37 in 2013) and dramatic increase in interception percentage (2.1 to 2.2 to 3.9) indicate a statistical anomaly. Given what the Raiders are going to be spending on him, it's clear that's what they believe, too. What made 2013 so bizarre is Schaub had not been a turnover machine historically. If he's in a situation where things around him go well, he can recover. But things have to go well around him. The struggles the Texans had with their running game were a very underrated part of why their offense wasn't working. Schaub had done really well out of play-action in the past, but didn't last year. Is he going to a place where the running game will support his endeavors?

Gutierrez: Which brings us to the $100,000 question (the amount of money guaranteed to running back Darren McFadden). It always comes back to the health of the perpetually injured McFadden. If McFadden is healthy -- he’s never played more than 13 games in a season and has missed 19 of the Raiders’ past 41 games, including six last season -- and used properly to his skill set, he’s a quarterback’s best friend. Look at how good and effective he made Jason Campbell look in 2011, before both were lost for the season with injuries. As noted above, the overhaul of the offensive line would suggest the Raiders are going to go all-in with a power running game and after McFadden, Oakland has the CFL’s Grey Cup MVP in Kory Sheets, a virtual rookie in Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with injury, and Jeremy Stewart. Obviously, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the Raiders’ running game. No doubt, McKenzie & Co. are hoping Schaub brings some answers with him, without weighing him down with unrealistic expectations.

Schaub, you’ll recall, is already in the Raiders' annals for his part in the "Divine Interception" play in 2011, when he was picked off in the end zone to seal an Oakland victory in Houston the day after Al Davis died and with the Raiders having only 10 players on the field. How cognizant is Schaub of NFL history in general, the Raiders and that play in particular, or is he simply a football player?

Ganguli: Wow, I forgot all about that. And it figures, doesn’t it? Run off on the heels of an uncharacteristically interception-laden season, Schaub gets traded to a team against which he threw an interception that led to an eerily perfect moment in the franchise’s history.

He might be a student of the game’s history, but will rarely let the public into any aspect of his being that isn’t related to the game immediately in front of him. I challenge you, Paul, to extract the personality we all knew was beneath Schaub’s stone exterior. By all accounts, he is interesting, funny and has a great personality. We just never saw it publicly. Schaub went to great lengths to make us believe he was dull, but he isn’t.

It won’t be long before Schaub faces his old team again. The Texans have a trip to Oakland on their schedule, which is less interesting than if the Raiders were to return to Houston with Schaub at the helm, but it’ll be interesting nonetheless. What’s your prediction?

Gutierrez: I accept your challenge, Tania, and look forward to seeing what’s underneath said “stone exterior.” Many see it as more milquetoast and that was a reason so many fans clamored for the likes of Michael Vick because, really, ain’t nothing boring about the artist formerly known as Ron Mexico. And actually, for what the Raiders are doing, Schaub is their man. He was their No. 1 target all along, followed by Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and then Vick. Fans may not agree with what McKenzie and Allen are doing but as far as the Raiders are concerned, it’s exactly what they want to do. As far as a prediction, I’ll wait until the roster is completely overhauled and the schedule is out and we see when, exactly, Schaub faces the Texans in Oakland. The cynic will predict a back-breaking and game-changing pick-six for Schaub against his former team. The optimist sees a 400-yard passing day and victory for Schaub and the Raiders against the Texans. Look forward to chatting again then.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Good morning from the NFL league meetings, where team owners, executives and head coaches have gathered for a few days of mostly business.

I'll be here for the meetings, which start this morning. Texans general manager Rick Smith, a member of the league's competition committee, is here, along with head coach Bill O'Brien. Texans owner Bob McNair isn't here, but chief operating officer Cal McNair will be.

There are 13 rules proposals and seven bylaws on the agenda for the week. And as it progresses, I'll try to check in with an array of Texans topics.

I started Sunday, chatting with Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie about both the decision and the process that led to the trade for former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.

"The guy’s had some talent," McKenzie said. Then he quipped: "I mean Andre Johnson was his target. It’d be nice if they would’ve thrown in Andre in the deal, too."

That would have cost a lot more than the sixth-round pick the Raiders gave up for Schaub (and also wasn't on the table). He does think a change of scenery could change things dramatically. I asked for some details on that philosophy.

"Sometimes you get into a funk you can’t get out of," McKenzie said of Schaub, whose 2013 season showed some statistical anomalies in terms of his career. For example, Schaub, as you know, set a record for consecutive games with a pick-six. "And sometimes you can work yourself through. At that time he couldn’t get himself out and then they made the switch [to Case Keenum]. He didn’t have time to work himself out in the long-term standpoint. Last year didn’t go the way he wanted so we’re hopeful that he can get back to his winning ways and play some good football."

McKenzie said the Raiders kept their eye on Schaub as they identified players they thought would be released or on the trading block. They worked out the deal and agreed to terms even before the Texans signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, McKenzie said.

"They may have sped up the Fitzpatrick signing because they knew our signing with Schaub was going to happen," McKenzie said.

For the Raiders, it was a chance to get a quarterback who they felt was consistent in most of his career. Even though there was a chance Schaub could be released, Oakland ensured they got him by giving up a sixth-round pick. His age also fit -- 33 in June is not too old, not too young, either.

"We don’t have a lot of veterans on the team from the standpoint of a whole lot of guys that have been there for a long time," McKenzie said. "We don’t have that. So not only at that quarterback position, we’ve brought in guys that have some leadership qualities, that have been there and done it. ... We’ve got some young quarterbacks that we feel like his presence can help."
One way or another, the Houston Texans were going to take a massive cap hit this season because of the contract they gave quarterback Matt Schaub.

Schaub agreed to a four-year extension that averaged $15.5 million the day before the 2012 season began, one that cemented the Texans' faith in him as their starting quarterback then and into the future. It didn't work out, obviously. If it had, Schaub would still be a Houston Texan, not preparing for his first news conference as an Oakland Raiders quarterback.

At a certain point you reach this dilemma: lose him for nothing or lose him for something, however minimal. In this case, the Texans got a sixth-round pick in exchange for their embattled former quarterback -- a player everybody knew they wanted no part of in 2014. And they did it by planting just the slightest seed of doubt that they were, in fact, done with Schaub. Remember, those quotes from the combine about how no determination had been made yet on Schaub's future?

In a league where player trade values are nearly non-existent, a sixth-round pick isn't bad. And while it's less, pick-wise, than the San Francisco 49ers gave up to trade for Blaine Gabbert, the Raiders are also taking on a much bigger salary in this transaction.

The cap relief for the Texans was non-existent in comparison to if they had just released him. The Texans saved $4 million in cap space by trading Schaub, the same as they would have if they had cut him today. They still have to account for the $10.5 million in dead money they already paid him in 2012.

The cash savings of trading vs. releasing Schaub is also equal. The Texans won't have to pay his $10 million 2014 salary, nor any of the roster bonus money that would have come with him remaining a Texans quarterback. His guarantees ran out last season.
Bill O'Brien, Ryan FitzpatrickGetty ImagesRyan Fitzpatrick, left, offers Bill O'Brien's Texans stability as they search for their QB of the future.
The Houston Texans' quarterback shuffling started in earnest Thursday night with some inter-division trading when the Texans signed Ryan Fitzpatrick less than a week after the Tennessee Titans released him. Fitzpatrick said on a conference call today that he’s coming in to compete, and that Bill O’Brien hasn’t boxed him into a “mentor” role or anything else just yet. But his ability to mentor whatever young quarterback joins the Texans' roster (or even one of the young guys currently there) will be important for the Texans this year.

Here, ESPN Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky and I tackle Fitzpatrick’s move from both angles. So Paul, what kind of relationship did Fitzpatrick have with Titans quarterback Jake Locker as the two intersected in Locker’s third NFL season?

Kuharsky: They got along well. There was no tension about who was in what role. Locker won the starting job from Matt Hasselbeck a year earlier. The Titans thought Hasselbeck was starting to fade and was too expensive, so they cut him and brought on Fitzpatrick. Everyone knows he’s smart since he went to Harvard. I think he’ll be a good resource for a draft pick to lean on in terms of how to be a pro and all of that.

Is the sense in Houston that while Fitz throws too many picks, he’s a cheaper option to keep the seat warm and be a resource for a draft pick than Matt Schaub would have been?

Ganguli: There is no parameter under which it didn’t make sense to do this for the Texans. They had to move on; Schaub’s time was done. They just needed to make sure to get something for him. Fitzpatrick is cheaper while offering some of the same things Schaub would have offered on the field and in the classroom. They replaced what would have been an $11 million salary for 2014, which includes a $10 million base and $1 million in per-game roster bonuses, with Fitzpatrick, who will make $4 million this year.

You addressed why the Titans cut Hasselbeck, but why did they cut Fitzpatrick last week?

Kuharsky: GM Ruston Webster said they just didn’t play well enough when Fitzpatrick was at quarterback last season, and that’s fair. I have trouble imagining Charlie Whitehurst will be better -- at least Fitzpatrick has some real experience. But Whitehurst was with Ken Whisenhunt in San Diego last season, and the Titans avoided a roster bonus and saved $3.25 million by parting with Fitzpatrick.

He’s very much a shotgun guy who is not very comfortable under center. How do you see that fitting with Bill O’Brien?

Ganguli: O’Brien is adaptable, and I think he’ll be able to work with that. Intelligence, size and at least some mobility are important for O’Brien’s quarterbacks as they will be asked to process a lot. I think those things are in line with what they will get with Fitzpatrick.

One thing that was interesting from Fitzpatrick’s conference call today is that he said being released by the Titans turned out to be a good thing for him. He said he had a lot of options and wound up in what he considers a better situation. What do you make of that?

Kuharsky: No player who just got dumped says where he lands is a worse situation. But he could have avoided that topic altogether. We have a lot to learn about both the Titans and Texans with their new coaching staffs and schemes. Obviously the Texans have some talent. But this idea that they can bounce back into a playoff-caliber team from 2-14 in a year is getting a little tired for me. Both the Texans and the Titans have new coaching staffs. I’m not so certain the one that finished five games worse is the better situation.

Fitzpatrick said he drew a lot of interest. What was the draw of O’Brien?

Ganguli: Sounds like two smart football minds were drawn together. They're both Ivy League guys, though somehow you were let into an Ivy League school, so maybe that doesn't mean anything. I kid, I kid. Seriously though, to hear Fitzpatrick talk about his affinity for the mental aspect of the game and the strategy sounds a lot like what you hear about why O'Brien loves football. Fitzpatrick is also very well connected around the league, as you know, and he's talked with plenty of people who know O'Brien well and spoke very highly of him. "Not only his mind and the way that he thought about football, but treating guys fairly and demanding the best out of you and all that stuff," Fitzpatrick said. "It was nothing but positive reports from people I really trust."
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.
Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

Johnny Manziel and Arian Foster caused quite the stir during Thursday night's Houston Rockets game by sitting next to each other courtside. I wouldn't exactly call this coverage to read, but here's Rockets center Dwight Howard's post-game Instagram with the two football stars. Foster with his characteristic sullen face and Manziel with a grin.

Speaking of Foster, he is not a fan of the NCAA tournament, the Texans running back made clear on Twitter, writes James Palmer of CSN Houston. It's not a surprise, considering many of his prior anti-NCAA statements.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle says that while there are no indications the Texans are close to trading Matt Schaub, the signing of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fueled that speculation last night. McClain figures Fitzpatrick's $7.5 million contract will provide a cap hit of $3.37 million this year, leaving the Texans with $6.3 million in cap space.

He might not be one of the three most talked-about quarterbacks, but Fresno State's Derek Carr has a Houston connection just by his last name. He woke up with a bug on Thursday, writes Marek Warszawski of the Fresno Bee. And he performed well during his pro day anyway.
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.
In the obituary for the Houston Texans' 2013 season, the answers to two questions matter the most:


And, how?

What we saw over and over again through Houston's 14 losses was a team that couldn't recover when things went bad. The mental toughness required to persevere appeared in the Texans' first two wins, but as more bad things happened in games, there rose an expectation that things would eventually go poorly.

Those bad things were varied, but often came through interceptions. That's why, as I examined the Texans' 2013 season, interceptions seemed repeatedly like the most important plays. As the league year comes to a close, we finish this series on 10 interceptions that shaped the Texans' 2013 season.

This one changed everything.

1. Richard Sherman's dagger

Seventeen points.

The Texans led the Seattle Seahawks by 17 points on their way to what at halftime looked like what was finally supposed to happen that season. Houston would win, they'd finally show that they were the juggernaut everyone expected in the preseason. They'd erase the wobbly feeling of two come-from-behind wins, dispel the sour taste of their first loss and march toward what was surely their destiny.

And then, halftime.

Ben Tate fumbled and the Seahawks kicked a field goal. The Texans didn't score in the second half, but the Seahawks used the kind of balance that made them Super Bowl champions to score their first touchdown of the game.

With 5:13 left in the game, up seven points, the Texans ran Arian Foster four times, eating 2:22. But then, a pass.

And then, disaster.

Sherman expected Matt Schaub's pass to tight end Owen Daniels, he'd practiced the very same play earlier that week and picked it off then, too. He returned the interception 58 yards for the game-tying touchdown.

Overtime had its own theatrics, but the impact of Sherman's pick six reverberated throughout the season. Both teams' destinies set into motion that afternoon at Reliant Stadium. They left that game both 2-2, with vastly different futures.

While the Seahawks gained confidence that day, the cracks in Schaub's confidence appeared and an unexpected spiral began.
We are nearing the end of this sordid series (with the exception of the two Monday posts it included).

As you know by now, it began as a chance to examine 10 plays that defined the Houston Texans' season, then grew into a look at simply 10 interceptions. My research was returning mostly interceptions as key plays as it was.

The Texans' 2-14 season in 2013 had a lot to do with those interceptions, both on a pure football level and on a more emotional level for the organization.

The final two interceptions in this series had dramatic impacts on the Texans mentally.

2. The San Francisco hat trick

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub entered this game approaching a dubious record. Everybody knew going in that one interception returned for a touchdown would make Schaub the first player since the merger to throw pick sixes in four consecutive games.

It happened quickly.

Schaub made history with his very first pass against the San Francisco 49ers. Cornerback Tramaine Brock intercepted Schaub and ran 18 yards into the end zone.

There are arguments to the contrary, and I'll present one tomorrow, but you could say this pick was Schaub's turning point. This game was his worst from start to finish. It was the only game in which he never looked comfortable. Texans coach Gary Kubiak benched Schaub after he threw his third interception, two of them to Brock.

The Texans lost that Sunday night to a title contender, 34-3.

That evening the Texans dropped to a losing record for the first time in 2013.
Unlike their counterparts in the AFC South, Indianapolis and Jacksonville, the Houston Texans will not be big spenders on the market once free agency begins March 11.

The NFL announced Friday the league’s salary cap for 2014 will be $133 million, which is an increase from $10 million from last season.

The Texans will have about $11 million in cap space. Houston isn’t as fortunate as the Colts and Jaguars, who will have about $41 million and more than $50 million, respectively, to spend on improving their rosters.

The Texans, meanwhile, could lose starters like guard Wade Smith, defensive end Antonio Smith and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell in free agency. They’ve also got to decide what to do with quarterback Matt Schaub, who is scheduled to make $14.1 million next season after losing his starting job last season.

Meanwhile, Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle has a neat story on a Crosby (Texas) High School senior football player who will be going to his prom with a Texans cheerleader.

“Courtesy of more than 10,000 retweets in a little more than 24 hours, [Michael] Ramirez went from just-broken-up status to one of Twitter’s hottest names Friday,” Smith wrote.
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?

Power Rankings: No. 32 Houston Texans

December, 31, 2013
A weekly examination of the Houston Texans' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 7 | Last Week: 32 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

For this season's final Power Rankings, the voters kept the Texans at the bottom, unanimously.

Their preseason expectations were high not just from the inside (the players talked about wanting to win a Super Bowl), but also from the outside (the Texans entered the season ranked seventh). Many analysts weren't sure about the quarterback situation, but none predicted the dramatic turmoil the Texans experienced. Rather, more thought Matt Schaub would be fine, but couldn't do enough to lead the Texans to a championship.

The silver lining for the Texans is that they go into next season with the chance to change things around. They'll get exactly who they want in the first round of the draft and can direct their franchise with a head-coaching selection that should wrap up very soon.

Next season's preseason ranking probably won't have them last -- but it also won't come with this year's lofty expectations.