By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
"I believe in Matt. He's the quarterback of our football team. I've got no doubt about him. I think over the course of the last two years, he's won 70-plus percent of his starts. That's hard to do in this league. I feel very good about our quarterback. Our whole team has got to get better – that includes coaching and playing – for us to take the next step. And Matt is part of the team, but I've got a lot of confidence in him." – Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, January 14, 2013
If the 2012 Texans season was a movie, that right there would have been your final scene – amid the broken glass of another playoff loss, head coach Gary Kubiak dusting off the same sales pitch he's been using for six years to try and persuade the media, the fans, and, deep down, maybe himself that Matt Schaub is the quarterback who can take his team and this city to the promised land.
This is where the story of the 2013 Houston Texans begins.
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The Rocky movies actually all started like this, remember? Each sequel of that saga started with the final scene of its predecessor, a reminder of where we left off and the gateway to the next chapter.
The contrast between the opening scenes of the Texans' 2012 season and their upcoming 2013 season is stark and noticeable, the difference between marching forward and being knocked backward.
If you remember, the Texans's 2011 season ended a lot like the first Rocky movie, the one where Rocky lost his title bout to Apollo Creed in a split decision, but in the process gained universal respect and planted seeds of hope.
Upstart, punch drunk, naively fearless after a hard-fought loss to Baltimore...that was the 2011 Texans!
Think back to the day after the Texans's playoff loss to the Ravens in January 2012. There was a quiet confidence about Gary Kubiak and this team. For the first time in most of their NFL careers, his group had finally tasted some success.
Having fought the Ravens tooth and nail with a rookie quarterback named T.J. Yates steering the ship, the general feeling was that this nucleus Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith had worked so tirelessly to assemble was simultaneously blossoming, like a superhero just discovering the fringe of his burgeoning superpowers.
Gary Kubiak after that playoff loss embodied that swagger:
"I've said this many times, and I think we can win any week right now, and that's very encouraging. I love the way our players came in here today. It was different than it has been. It's almost like they would've loved to have gone right back to work tomorrow on next year. That's important because I feel like they think they belong now... I think they're excited about the future and excited about the team."
Kubiak didn't say it back then, but he didn't have to. Many people thought the components of the Texans by the end of 2011 were good enough – the running game, the defense, Andre Johnson – that if Matt Schaub had been healthy for those playoffs, they could have gone to Super Bowl XLVI and played the Giants.
At that time, the 2012 season couldn't come soon enough. And eventually, it came.
And for the first 12 weeks of 2012, life was good. Matt Schaub was healthy again, the team was 11-1, and we anxiously awaited the results of the paternity test to see if, in fact, J.J. Watt was Jor-El's other son.
Then New England happened.
On a Monday night in early December, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady unleashed a barrage of touchdown passes (four in just more than a half, to be exact) that buried the Texans so fast, all that they remember is waking up the next morning face down in a pool of their own blood wearing only their Texans letterman jackets.
That loss triggered a downward spiral that saw Kubiak's squad lose three of their final four regular season games and eventually bow out in the divisional round of the playoffs again.
Central to the collapse was quarterback Matt Schaub, who was borderline terrible down the stretch last season, throwing one touchdown pass in the final four regular season games as the Texans went from a lock for a first round bye at Thanksgiving to a three seed before they even finished their Christmas shopping.
The Texans's brimming post-2011 confidence gave way to mild panic, and in an odd twist, post-2011's sentiment that Matt Schaub's absence kept the Texans from going to the Super Bowl was replaced with post-2012 blame that his presence did the exact same thing.
And therein lies the ironic existence of Matt Schaub, the "soft 18 against a dealer's face card" of NFL quarterbacks, just good enough to give you a chance to think you could go all the way, but in practicality not nearly enough to beat the two face cards that eventually await you in January. (For the record, in this blackjack analogy, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are both blackjacks. Mark Sanchez is a 16, and the dealer has an ace showing on every hand for the rest of eternity.)
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!