The Truth on the Matt Schaub Situation
You want the truth?
I understand the emotions of sports fans.
Hell, I am a sports fan; I just happen to have a microphone and a password to the Houston Press's blogging mechanism.
I was there in the stadium for most of the soul-crushing Matt Schaub pick sixes last season, including the third play of the San Francisco game, where Tramaine Brock took it to the house running right toward me for six points about three seconds into the 49ers game. Seriously, the only thing that could have been more infuriating would have been Brock handing me my credit card statement with the cost of the tickets to that game after he spiked the ball.
Matt Schaub didn't singlehandedly ruin the Texans' season in 2013, but he was one of the biggest reasons they finished 2-14, as he stacked lowlight after lowlight on top of each other, one football explosive after another imploding Houston's Super Bowl dreams.
I understand the foregone conclusion that Matt Schaub would be gone in 2014, especially with a new head coach, a "quarterback guru" no less! How could he possibly look at Matt Schaub and see any redeeming QB value?
I get it. So, I get why everyone in Houston freaked out when my man John McClain from the Houston Chronicle tweeted this Tuesday morning:
With QB market so barren, Texans should keep Matt Schaub if he'll redo contract that calls for $14.12 cap figure and $10 mil base.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 11, 2014
Matt Schaub is better than any QB on market. If they cut him, he'll be hottest QB available.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 11, 2014
I can hear the Obi Wan "millions of voices crying out in terror" now!
NOOOOOOO!!!! They can't bring Schaub back!!!!
Hey, here's the thing -- you're right. They can't bring Matt Schaub back, and my guess still is they probably won't. But here is the reality of the situation in three nice, neat little bullet points:
1. For business reasons, there is no rush to cut Matt Schaub. While it's the job of fans to torment underperforming players in their driveways, put "FOR SALE" signs in their front yards, and offer to drive them to the airport, it's the job of team management to be more pragmatic about every facet of constructing a roster, and the truth for the Texans is that a) they're around $13 million under the salary cap right now, and b) they're not making a run at anyone right now where they need anywhere close to $13 million in cap space. So there's no pressing need to cut Matt Schaub and realize the cap "savings" of letting him go (savings which I put in air quotes for a reason, more in a minute).
Here's the other thing -- believe it or not, as the veteran quarterback market unfolds, there could possibly be a trade market (albeit the flea-iest of flea markets) for Schaub. Some team might be willing to duke the Texans a sixth or seventh round pick to have Schaub as their starter for a year or two. It sounds crazy, but look at the available veteran quarterbacks. Schaub might be the best one. (This is where you stop wondering why teams "reach" for quarterbacks in the draft. You reach because otherwise you get stuck trading for and paying veteran dollars for Matt Schaub.)
(NOTE: I would imagine any trade for Schaub would have to come with some sort of understanding that he would renegotiate his base salary downward, but who knows? Teams have to spend up to 90 percent of their cap space, so one of these cap space rich teams could probably absorb Schaub's $10 million salary with minimal issue.)
2. The $3.625 million cap "savings" the Texans would get from letting Matt Schaub go is a half baked truth. Here is the math of cutting or trading Matt Schaub if you're the Texans:
2014 Base Salary: $10,000,000 2014 Miscellaneous Bonus: $625,000 2014 Salary Cap Figure: $14,125,000 2014 Dead Money if traded/released: $10,500,000
Schaub Traded/cut pre-June 1 * 2014 Cap "Savings": $3,625,000
Schaub traded/cut post-June 1 ** 2014 Cap "Savings": $10,625,000 ** 2015 Cap Hit: ($7,000,000)
Let's start with one philosophical belief I have -- if the Texans indeed unload Schaub, then they need to eat the entire Schaub cap hit, all $10.5 million of it, in 2014. They're not winning a Super Bowl next season. Take all of your medicine in one fell swoop and live to fight in 2015 with ample cap space and/or a newly extended J.J. Watt. There is no reason to shove seven million empty cap dollars into 2015's cap. None whatsoever.
So with that said, yes, technically the Texans would spend $3.625 million less in cap dollars in 2014 if they trade Schaub or let him go before June 1. But you need to replace him, and frankly "equal replacements" (and by "equal" I mean veteran quarterbacks who have had a few decent seasons along the way) right now are going for more than $3.625 million. Hell, Matt Cassel just got two years, $10 million, and he's been way worse than Schaub the last few years!
So, from purely a fundamental standpoint, if you're going to get hit with Schaub money one way or the other, don't you wait to make sure that you're not totally screwing yourself by releasing him? (The answer is "Yes," as much as we all want to get out our torches and pitchforks and run over to Schaub's house and run him out of town.)
3. There will always be a market for quarterbacks with a pulse. One point of view espoused by some (mostly former players) is that the Texans should let Schaub go out of "respect" so that he can find a new home while the quarterback market is peaking in terms of demand. Two things on that -- first, the sign of "respect" that Schaub got was in the form of $29 million guaranteed coming off of a broken foot heading into 2012. Sorry, Schaub's used up all his "respect" coupons.
Second, have we learned nothing about the quarterback market? There will always be a market for reasonably competent (ok, not even reasonably competent) quarterbacks at all times of the calendar year. The Raiders traded two high draft picks for Carson Palmer in the middle of the season in 2011, and he hadn't even been in a training camp yet! Teams inquired about Brett Favre two years after he had retired to see if he could come back midseason and play. Hell, Vinny Testaverde probably still gets phone calls! I mean, do we not remember having Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia on the same team right here in Houston in 2011?!?
If a team is desperate enough, it will pay for a quarterback, at any time. Even historically bad ones. Like Matt Schaub coming off of 2013.
I still think Schaub will be a former Texan at some point this offseason. I think there is an immeasurable anger that would encompass the fan base if Schaub were back in any shape, form, or fashion, as a starter or a backup.
But let's allow O'Brien and company to do their jobs, which for better or worse, includes being practical with how they handle these final days of the Schaub Era.
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.