By Camilo Smith
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By Sean Pendergast
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To fans, the NFL is a bottom-line business, and along those lines, since arriving in Houston in 2007, Texans fans have never fully embraced Schaub. It didn't help that his first two seasons were marked by repeated injuries (only 11 starts each season) and saddled him with a figurative scarlet "I" that he still carries to this day.
In 2009, Schaub had a season that may have been the perfect metaphorical arc for the Matt Schaub Experience. He led the league in passing yards (4,770, to be exact) amid a season where the Texans blew several games in the fourth quarter during a 5-7 start, before rattling off four straight wins to close out the season 9-7 and miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
To top it all off, after a mountain of largely meaningless yards that 9-7 regular season, Scorcese could not have scripted a more appropriate ending than Schaub's hoisting that season's Pro Bowl MVP trophy, awarded to the player deemed the best in a glorified sandlot game.
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Any inkling that there was a greater good to the Texans's 9-7 finish in 2009, that it was some sort of building block to take "the next step" in 2010, was flushed down the drain with that season's 6-10 finish, a season in which Schaub threw for 4,370 yards that were even less meaningful than 2009's.
Even by 2011, when the Texans as a team had graduated from "beginner" to "intermediate" in the NFL swim class, Schaub was still a walking embodiment of the Peter Principle, just competent enough to eventually show his incompetence.
Since the beginning of the 2011 season, with Schaub as their starting quarterback, the Texans haven't lost to any teams that eventually finished the season below .500, so credit where due, Schaub generally takes care of task-oriented business like slapping around Jacksonville or Buffalo.
At the same time, six of the Texans's seven regular season losses over that period have been to eventual playoff teams, and those six losses were by an average of 16 points.
In short, if Schaub were a bus driver, his bus would run on time every day as long as the weather was nice. If it started to snow, his bus would probably wind up flipped over in a ditch and would be the top story on the evening news.
So where do we go from here?
If you ask most Texans fans, their underlying frustration lies not just with Schaub, but with the organization's unending patience from the top down, and while owner Bob McNair's decision to retain Kubiak after that 6-10 debacle in 2010 and bring in Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator appears to have been the correct one, the team is still stuck at the divisional round of the postseason.
Like the first few years of the Kubiak Era, the team is again stuck in neutral; it just happens to be on the outskirts of River Oaks instead of, say, Baytown. (For purposes of this analogy, during the Dom Capers Era, the team was stuck in reverse, going 80 miles per hour, with Aaron Hernandez riding shotgun.)
If you're wondering just how abnormally patient Bob McNair has been with the combination of Kubiak and Schaub, consider the list of NFL quarterback/head coach combinations that have made the most regular season starts together since Kubiak and Schaub first combined forces in 2007.
It goes like this:
So to translate this chart into plain English, since 2007, only three head coaches and quarterbacks have participated in more games together than Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub. Each of those three teams has more Super Bowl appearances than the Schaub/Kubiak combo has playoff wins.
For fun, I even included the next three closest combinations, so among the seven captured in this chart, all of them (except Schaub and Kubiak, obviously) have won Super Bowls since 2007, except New England, to whom I'm willing to give a pass based on their three Super Bowl wins prior to 2007 and their undefeated 2007 regular season.
TRANSLATION: Bob McNair is ridiculously patient. Like, certifiably patient. Also, I'm fairly certain that degree of patience means Bob McNair would be the coolest grandfather ever.
(Honestly, if McNair has let Kubiak and Schaub steer his billion dollar enterprise for this long being average at best, how much does a McNair grandkid get away with around Casa de Bob? Crayon on every wall of his mansion? No problem. Ten 50-gallon drums of spilled milk? That's OK! Burning the pool house down playing with matches? Hey, this isn't the first time we've seen an ox in a ditch!)
In the end, all that chart provides is simple empirical validation of the culture of comfort that the Texans have allowed to permeate the Kubiak Era with respect to Matt Schaub.
Pressure and accountability, at least from the standpoint of competition for the starting quarterback job, have been nonexistent in six seasons. The Texans have drafted two quarterbacks since 2007, one in the seventh round in 2008 (Alex Brink, yo!) and one in the fifth round in 2011 (T.J. Yates, double yo!). No threats, no grooming of the next potential starter, just a franchise with the quarterback position switch set to "DEFAULT" at 4,000 yards, 10 wins, and a second round playoff exit.
I rarely comment online. It all goes out with the tide of ignorance. But this was a very pleasurable article to read, though less than orgasmic. 11-5 sounds about right, barring widespread or catastrophic injuries.
I do think your patience chart is a little unfair to McNair, because Kubiak/Schaub were trying to take an expansion team first to break-even, then to playoff contenders, which they have done. The other coach/quarterback combinations you compare them to are all with established and successful franchises. Also, all those yards Schaub racked up in 2009 and 2010 would not have been meaningless if the Texans defense had not blown so many second half leads. The 2010 team could very easily have been 10-6 instead of 6-10, which is probably why Kubiak kept his job. It was only after Arian Foster and Wade Phillips arrived that Kubiak went more to the ball-control offense, though it does seem obvious that he is more comfortable with this type of game plan.
Contract or no contract, the pressure is on Schaub this year far more than any other player, and everybody including Schaub knows it. He's not going to get far on foot, and he's not Brady or Rodgers, but I think he's good enough. For the entire time Schaub has been here, the bigger problem has been on the other side of the line, even including the games at the end of last year when Schaub was really bad. It wasn't Schaub who put em in the hole in New England, it was the defense. The defense is way better now than it was three years ago, and with Cushing back and (we can hope) the impact of Ed Reed, it should be better than it was last year. But as you point out, they still need to prove they can beat the Superbowl quarterbacks -- there are only four that are head and shoulders above the rest and we all know who they are -- in a big game. Schaub and Kubiak can maybe win a regular season shoot-out against San Diego or Baltimore, or even Seattle or San Francisco, though it's unlikely. But to beat New England or Denver in the play-offs, and that is where the road to the Superbowl will most likely lead at 11-5, the defense has to hold them to three TDs and a field goal, or less.
If all the key pieces are healthy, who's to say it can't be done?
30-27 Texans, AFC champs.
(Then the Niners will pitch a virtual shut out in the Superbowl, sort of like Astros going down 4-0 in the World Series...)
The problem here is Gary Kubiak emotionally invested in an average QB that reminded him of himself back when he was riding the pine behind John Elway. Bob McNair emotionally invested in Kubiak in an almost father/son way. What Kubiak is doing is running the old Broncos offense with a QB closer to Bernie Kosar than John Elway. What makes matters worse is if Kubiak is fired, good old horse trader/thief Bum Phillips will amble into McNair's office and humbly suggest Wade will be "good" for the Texans. Yep, things are pretty bleak in H-town.
" ...and Tim Tebow is a bust." !!! OMG, the perfect line, fits the blackjack analogy and everything. It was right there, a bird's nest on the ground. Aaargh!
hey, man. cheer up! season has not started yet. it's gonna be fun to watch whatever happens. hope springs eternal!