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Case Keenum Named Texans Starting Quarterback Again This Sunday

Case Keenum is the man for the second game in a row
Case Keenum is the man for the second game in a row
Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher

"Obviously, Matt's our starting quarterback. Case played this week because Matt wasn't healthy. Case went in and played extremely well." -- Gary Kubiak, 10/21/13

"Case will start this week." -- Gary Kubiak, 10/28/13

Ostensibly, if you take Gary Kubiak's quotes from his past two Monday press conferences at face value, you'd say that a lot can change in a week.

The fact of the matter is, like most NFL head coaches, Kubiak chooses his words carefully and is less about stark truthfulness with the media than he is about handling things internally a certain way with his players.

Therefore, it shouldn't be a major surprise that we found out yesterday that not only did Kubiak name Case Keenum the Houston Texans' starting quarterback for this Sunday night's game with the Indianapolis Colts, but that Keenum was actually informed of the decision (as was Matt Schaub) last Tuesday, the day after Kubiak told the world that Schaub was still "obviously" the starter.

I guess it wasn't all that obvious.

Kubiak expounded upon that on Monday:

"Actually, I talked to Case and Matt (Schaub), I think, Tuesday before I gave them their break and talked to the team this morning. But Case will start and hopefully we'll grow from last week. I thought he did some really good things. I thought we played some clean football and we're going to have to do that here down the road to improve. That's the way we started working today."

Considering that Schaub was still recovering from a nasty ankle injury over the bye week, Keenum's being named the starter for the Colts game shouldn't come as a major surprise. What was mildly startling, though, was that Kubiak was very open that this was a merit-based decision, not a medically based one:

"No, Matt's fine. Matt's fine and it's just the decision I made based on what I saw take place last week with Case and him taking advantage of an opportunity and I want to see him move forward. He's got to improve. He's definitely got to go and improve. With this football team we're playing, our football team's got to improve around him. Like I said, a decision for this week."

I say it was mildly startling because Kubiak has always been quick to take arrows for Matt Schaub and when questions are asked about a poor performance by his incumbent the last seven seasons, Kubiak is quick to include every other Texan collectively on the "needs to improve" list.

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"Yeah, Matt needs to improve, but we all need to improve. I need to improve as a coach, and all the players, not just Matt, need to improve," is how it typically goes.

From that standpoint, Kubiak's honesty on Monday was refreshing. I just don't know what took so long, especially if both Keenum and Schaub knew last Tuesday.

But whatever. All's well that ends well, I suppose.

I could write another thousand words parsing Kubiak's coach speak and sidestepping, and apply them to any number of theories I have about his overly loyal management style. But why waste your time and my time when all I need to do is point to Joe Marciano's continued employment as evidence to that end, right?

The true proof that the marriage between Schaub and Kubiak is over will come after the season is over when one (Schaub, for sure) or both (quite possibly) are gone, leaving the always cap-strapped Texans with $10.5 million in dead cap money to shuffle around over the next couple of years.

But that's January's problem. The important thing now is that the Texans win a football game, something that hasn't happened since mid-September.

Oddly enough, the quarterback who gives them the best chance to win and the youngster that they need to "evaluate to see what they have" are one and the same, a simultaneous indictment on just how badly Schaub has careened into the abyss and statement on how precocious Keenum has been thus far.

In the balance hangs the Texans' whole season, which frankly is already on life support. Lose this game, and at 2-6, the attention turns to May's draft three weeks before Thanksgiving. Win this game, and the Texans head into a very manageable stretch of schedule (road games at Arizona and Jacksonville sandwiching three home games against Oakland, Jacksonville and New England) with a head to head win over the Colts.

And appropriately, the Texans will function as a team with almost no margin for error by deploying a quarterback who, for purposes of his fledgling career, has almost no margin for error.

Undrafted, third string, scout team. For Case Keenum, these are all antiquated labels now. Third string is the new first string. He's the Houston Texans' starting quarterback. That's all that matters.

Until next Monday, at least.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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