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Sometimes, as Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said recently, a change of scenery can be good. It can refresh the mind and reinvigorate the competitive spirit.
That is certainly what the Oakland Raiders hope a change of address will do for quarterback Matt Schaub.
No quarterback in recent memory has had as precipitous a fall as Schaub did last season in Houston. He went from being a dependable pocket passer to a turnover machine. Last season, Schaub had an interception returned for a touchdown in an NFL-record four consecutive games and threw 14 picks overall. It left Schaub's confidence in tatters, led to then-coach Gary Kubiak benching him and ultimately prompted the Texans to trade him to the Raiders for a sixth-round draft pick.
The Texans had a host of problems -- as any team that finishes with just two wins does -- but Schaub was near the top of the list. Oakland hopes to change Schaub's course.
|Ousted in Houston, new Raiders QB Matt Schaub is determined to prove he can still play at a high level.|
"The goal right now is to resurrect the player and get him playing at a level he was playing at before last season," Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said, "because he's not at an age where most quarterbacks start to decline. We still feel like there's some good years left in Matt."
That very well could be, but it is also true that the Raiders have been unable to hit on a quarterback since 2012, when Reggie McKenzie became the general manager and Dennis Allen became the head coach. They traded away Carson Palmer, traded for Matt Flynn and gave him a raise before cutting him, drafted and cut and then signed Tyler Wilson to the practice squad before losing him to Tennessee, and mishandled Terrelle Pryor. The result: eight wins in two seasons.
Schaub will almost certainly have to be better than that for Allen to hang onto his job past this season.
When surveying the quarterback market this offseason, the Raiders targeted Schaub in part because of his 6-foot-5 frame. Last season not withstanding, he has been an effective play-action passer. Prior to last season, Schaub had a history of success, leading the Texans to consecutive AFC South titles. In the five seasons before last year, Schaub completed 64.9 percent of his passes, averaged 3,734 passing yards per season and threw for 105 touchdowns. He also posted a 90-plus passer rating in each of those seasons.
The Raiders need stability at the quarterback position, and for now, they have it. They traded Pryor to Seattle and selected Fresno State's Derek Carr 36th overall in this year's draft. When Oakland heads into training camp next month, its depth chart will look like this: No. 1 Schaub, No. 2 Matt McGloin, No. 3 Carr. Schaub is being counted on as the starter, although Carr could supplant McGloin as the backup, depending on how he progresses through organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and the preseason.
Oakland plans to rely heavily on running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, whom the Raiders signed in free agency. While they don't have a proven tight end or a true No. 1 wideout, they have a slew of young receivers and added Green Bay's James Jones in free agency. The Raiders also upgraded their offensive line and believe that a potent running game will let Schaub do what he does best: utilize play-action.
Even so, Olson said he is cognizant of the need for Schaub to regain his confidence. That means making sure Schaub is comfortable with the Raiders' scheme and what they are asking him to do.
"When you see a fall that occurred like that last year, I'm not naïve enough to believe just by switching teams he's going to go back to that 90-plus quarterback rating," Olson said. "But I do believe he's got the skills, and he still has some shelf life left. If we didn't believe that way, we wouldn't have [acquired] him.
"Now, it's just a matter of surrounding him with the right players and the right system, and we think we're doing that. We think he'll flourish."
As for Schaub's confidence, Olson said: "If he is fragile at this point, he certainly hasn't shown it to me or anyone else in the building or the rest of his teammates."
That's a good thing.
Schaub recently told reporters in Oakland that last season is "in the past" and he has "moved on." But he admitted that it adds "fuel to the fire."
Added Olson: "Even though he probably won't admit it, there's probably a chip on his shoulder that he wants to prove to people, too, that last year was an anomaly."
Schaub will get that opportunity in Week 2, when the Raiders play host to the Texans. Oakland's schedule also features eight games against opponents who made the playoffs in 2013, including back-to-back games against last season's Super Bowl participants, Seattle and Denver. Proving doubters wrong will not be easy.
Will Schaub be the answer at quarterback for Oakland? He will turn 33 later this month, and it seems more likely he will turn out to be another Palmer, a quarterback past his prime trying to reinvent himself in silver and black.
Changing scenery is one thing. Changing fortunes, as Reid realized last season in Kansas City, is something else.