Texans Reach the Breaking Point, Andre Johnson Walks Off
Andre Johnson deserves better.
Photos by Groovehouse
"Me and Matt are fine." -- Andre Johnson, after Sunday's 28-23 loss to the Oakland Raiders
You're Andre Johnson.
You get drafted in 2003 by a one year old expansion team, still in its infancy stage. You're excited, you're eager, and you're hoping to be the foundational building block of something great.
But as it turns out, it's not great. Far from it.
You endure three years of Dom Capers and four years of David Carr and still somehow manage to go to two Pro Bowls and become one of the elite receivers in the game, which in retrospect is the football equivalent of becoming a world class chef using only a spoon, a cheese grater, and a Zippo lighter.
Three years in, you get a new head coach, a new general manager, and eventually a new quarterback, and things are better, but far from perfect. In years the offense is good, the defense is wretched. In years the defense is great -- well, the one year the defense was great -- you're injured most of the season.
Yeah, sure, the team gets better, you win a couple playoff games, but it turns out to be fool's gold.
And six games into 2013, you're right back where you started. It's bad.
The team slides dreadfully backwards, largely due to said quarterback, who commits such heinous, unspeakable acts of football self-mutilation that sending the authorities in with a strait jacket was probably advisable. 2013 unraveled, and 2-0 quickly became 2-4.
You're Andre Johnson. You're 32, and the clock is ticking. You deserve better. At the very least, you deserve hope. Finally, it appears, hope knocks.
A second year quarterback, forgotten by 31 other teams, gets an opportunity. Yes, 2-4 became 2-7 in his first three games, but the team was at least competitive (which qualified as progress, at that point) and the lifeless carcass of an offense suddenly had a heartbeat, and for you, something funny happened. The second year quarterback, a gunslinger if nothing else, threw you the ball -- he threw it to you repeatedly, often, and everywhere on the field.
And like a superhero finally discovering his super powers, you realized this is what it should have been like along. Deep balls, contested jump balls, red zone throws, end zone throws, all the throws that for some reason every other NFL quarterback who ever threw you a ball was afraid to throw....these should have been yours for the last ten goddamn years.
YOU ARE ANDRE FUCKING JOHNSON.
And this kid knew it.
Surreal moment between QBs.
Was the kid a permanent solution? Probably not. But hey, at least playing offense was fun again. A big part of you had to feel energized, but at the same time a big part of you had to feel angry -- angry that a coach and an organization would allow a nuclear weapon of a wide receiver like you to go unused in so many ways for so many years.
Throw the ball to me and let me go get it. How hard can that be?
You're Andre Johnson. You hope that there are enough years left on the odometer to make up for lost time, catch more touchdowns, win more games, maybe win a Super Bowl. For now, the kid will do. He's clearly the best option on this roster, everybody knows this.
Or do they?
As it turns out, everybody knows this except one person, and unfortunately it's the one person making decisions.
It's Week 11, and the kid struggles (although no worse than the previous quarterback was struggling when he got yanked), the kid gets the hook, and back in comes the cement footed, physically limited, walking Ambien tablet that never threw you the ball in a spot where you could be ANDRE FUCKING JOHNSON.
And as Tony Soprano would say, that's what broke the camel's back.
In the third quarter of Sunday's 28-23 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Gary Kubiak gave quarterback Case Keenum ("the kid") the hook, and reinserted Matt Schaub ("the cement footed, physically limited, walking Ambien tablet") in an attempt to win a football game. Carrying with him a 2013 resume adorned in pick sixes and riddled with second half futility, Schaub entered the game to a chorus of boos so loud that, according to guard Wade Smith, the team had to use its silent counts to run plays.
Think about that -- Matt Schaub got a reception at home whose decibel level was commensurate with that of the Texans' worst enemies.
Oh eventually, it got quiet in the stadium, (That'll happen when half the place clears out and heads to the parking lot.) and the Texans were allowed to go to work, which for them unfortunately meant more of the same -- field goals, futility, and winding up on the business end of somebody else's Sportscenter highlights (That truck that hit you is named "Rashad Jennings," D.J. Swearinger).
Eight losses deep we are now in this streak, and the Texans still have only two touchdowns in the second half of games during this soul crushing stretch. In their failure, the Texans are consistent, if nothing else.
The game Sunday ended in a similar spot to the last time Oakland came to town in 2011, with the Texans down five points, on the doorstep of the Raiders goal line, with Matt Schaub throwing desperately and flimsily into the end zone, this time to Johnson who had no fewer than four white shirts around him.
What happened next will either be the beginning of a defining moment or just the latest chapter in the season of Playmakers that 2013 has become here in Houston. (Or both.) Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, partners in a fairly productive, peaceful coexistence since 2007, yelled at each other on the sidelines, loudly and publicly.
How it started isn't important. What needs to be understood is that Matt Schaub, with millions watching and in the middle of his worst season, thought it was okay to critique and engage argumentatively with Andre Johnson publicly over screwing up. I don't know that Matt Schaub has ever had the equity to make what happened on Sunday acceptable, but if he did, he forfeited that equity several pick sixes ago this season.
Of all the moments Matt Schaub needed to realize he is Matt Schaub, this was it.
And now we know, tone deaf trickles down to the quarterback, in perfect lockstep with his head coach as they steer the franchise into the iceberg, they finally did the seemingly impossible -- they drove one of the few marquee wide receivers who eschews diva tendencies, who always puts team first, to go into business for himself.
With the way Gary Kubiak seems to grade certain players on a curve, I've had to say this many times in 2013 -- there is a breaking point where excess loyalty to poor performers crosses into disloyalty to star performers.
On Sunday, make no mistake, Andre Johnson finally reached that breaking point. On Sunday, Matt Schaub did to Andre Johnson what he's done to so many Texans fans this season.
On Sunday, Matt Schaub made Andre Johnson say, "F*** this."
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 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.