In between not one but two live NFL games on Sunday night and one cross-country flight on Monday, I had plenty of time these last couple of days to think about the current state of the Houston Texans.
And as they sit amid the charred, barely recyclable remnants of what was, at one time, viable Super Bowl aspirations, still one of the most talented teams in the league but completely and hopelessly stuck in first gear, I think it boils down to this:
Imagine, if you will, that you own a car. It's not a souped-up sports car or a rugged SUV, it's just one of those four-wheels-and-an-engine jobbies whose sole purpose is to make sure that you get to work, get the kids to soccer practice and go buy a few groceries. If it successfully gets you to your destination, it's done its job.
You're basically driving, like, a Dodge Caravan. With me so far?
Okay, now imagine that one day, this Dodge Caravan, which has been sufficient enough for you the last seven years, all of a sudden breaks down in traffic. Conks out, damn near causes a 12-car pileup. And not just in the turn lane on an intersection in, say, Memorial, but in the middle lane of the 610 Loop in the middle of rush hour.
Your friends would probably say, "Man, Gary, that sucks. Oh well, you probably got about as much out of that Dodge Caravan as you could. Might be time to junk that thing. Hope you're okay, bro."
In other words, that minivan blows. We feel for you; it's the car's fault.
Now imagine that the following week it happens again at the worst possible time. The Dodge Caravan busts a water hose and overheats right in the middle of two lanes on the Hardy Toll Road. Maybe your friends say, "Damn, Gary, twice in two weeks! That's the worst luck anybody could have with a minivan! That thing blows. I'd try something new, if I were you."
In other words, it's still the minivan's fault.
Now imagine for the third consecutive week, you're driving the kids to a really important game (against a team hypothetically called the "Seahawks"), and the electronics on the Dodge Caravan (which neighbors are now ridiculing you for having even more than they normally would for having a Dodge Caravan) completely shit the bed, the cruise control won't turn off and you hit a car in the oncoming lane (a car driven, coincidentally, by Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks).
Your friends are, at first, worried that you're okay, and they begin to openly wonder why you're still driving that thing. In other words, yeah, the car fucked up royally, but damn, man, this thing is putting you in harm's way. Stop being a fool, Gary!
Now imagine for the fourth consecutive week that you're pulling out of your driveway, and before you even get into the street, the engine explodes and you're sitting in a minivan that is on fire (with all of your neighbors, coincidentally dressed in 49ers jerseys, pointing and laughing at you).
Four straight weeks the Dodge Caravan has royally screwed you. Four straight weeks.
Now your friends say, "Dude, what the hell are you doing? Get a different fucking car already! Sure, it'll be costly. Sure, you're attached to the ol' Dodge Schaubavan...I mean, Caravan, but shit, you've got a family to think about! You've got kids, good kids, 52 of them, to think about!"
In other words, now you're the idiot, Gary, for getting behind the wheel of what is clearly a mobile chamber of death.
Here's my point (in addition to making fun of grown men forced to drive minivans)...
With every failure, someone is to blame. As messy and uncomfortable as pointing that out can be at times, it's just a fact. Nothing is totally random, bad things are usually preventable.
In football, for better or worse, the quarterback often gets a disproportionate amount of the blame when things go wrong (and likewise, credit when things go well), but make no mistake, Matt Schaub was to blame for each and every one of those four pick sixes that he's tossed the last month of this downward spiral of a season.
ALL OF THEM.
However, there comes a point where you have to accept that the continually failing entity, the rightful target of blame to that point (in this case, Schaub), is just that -- that entity is failing, and to continue its use is not only the definition of insanity, but unfair and irresponsible to those who rely upon you for sound decision making. It's at that point that the line is crossed, and you can no longer blame the Dodge Caravan (or the pedestrian, 32-year-old, null set at quarterback) for its deficiencies. Four straight weeks of colossal, nearly fatal failures, it's now clearly on you, Gary, for driving an unreliable donkey of a vehicle.
In retrospect, it was about the time that 49ers defensive back Tramaine Brock crossed the goal line, 90 seconds into what would become a 34-3 trouncing of the Texans at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, with the fourth pick six to leave Matt Schaub's hands in the last four games, that this unprecedented wave of ineptitude by a quarterback went from being "on Matt" to being "on Gary."
Since starting last season 11-1, the Texans are now 4-7 in their last eleven games including the two playoff games to close out the 2012 season. Even worse, the seven losses have been by an average margin of over sixteen points a game. Blowouts galore.
Additionally, in the last two seasons, the Texans have played on national television (Sunday night football, Monday night football, the playoffs -- sorry, I don't count the obligatory Thursday game) eight times. They're 4-4, which isn't terrible, I guess. However, the four wins have come against the 2012 Jets, 2012 Bears, 2012 Bengals and 2013 Chargers (in other words, no world beaters) by an average margin of 5.5 points.
The four losses, on the other hand, have come at the hands of the 2012 Patriots (twice), the 2012 Green Bay Packers and the 2013 San Francisco 49ers by an average margin of 22.5 points. In the three regular-season games of that four-game sample, the Texans trailed 14-0 after one quarter, and in the playoff game against New England, they trailed 17-3 midway through the second.
Matt Schaub's collective line in those four losses: 92-151, 980 yards, 2 touchdowns, 7 interceptions for a 65.0 passer rating.
(To provide some context on how utterly terrible a 65.0 passer rating is, Matt Cassel had a 66.7 passer rating for the 2012 season for the 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs in what might have been the worst season by a starting quarterback of the modern era. Cassel is awful.)
Put simply, Matt Schaub is not only awful in these games, the team is typically snowed under and demoralized early in these games. These aren't "battle-fights," these are TKOs.
As I outlined in my season preview for the Texans for the print version of the Houston Press a month or so ago, since 2007, the combination of Schaub and Kubiak as quarterback and head coach has started the fourth most games in the league during that period of time, behind only Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin, Ben Roethlisberger/Mike Tomlin and Tom Brady/Bill Belichick.
I don't need to point out what those other combinations have that Schaub/Kubiak does not, do I?
In other words, Gary, you've had time to figure this out. It's not working. Not only has Matt Schaub not been able to get your franchise over the hump, he's woefully (and, at times, embarrassingly) pissed himself every time the lights have shone the brightest, putting your team in what, as it turns out, were insurmountable deficits really early in games.
You, Gary, have constructed a team whereby everything needs to be exactly in place and working at optimum efficiency in order for your quarterback to thrive. This is the course that you and Rick Smith have chosen. So it makes your decision to roll the dice on the right side of the offensive line last season now look reckless, and your decision to ride for so long with Kevin Walter as your number two receiver so laughable.
In a league where the great teams have quarterbacks who conceal the flaws on the remainder of the roster, you chose to roll with a quarterback who exposes yours.
In addition, the other guys on your team can no longer believe in Matt Schaub as their quarterback. Oh, they will say they do -- under the duress of interrogation with sharp power tools and gasoline water boarding they'll say they do, because they are loyal teammates and good guys.
But they don't. How could they?
Oftentimes analogies of pro sports to real life don't work because the two worlds are so drastically different, with sports almost having its own set of societal rules, but one area that is unflinchingly rigid regardless of the world in which you exist, sports or non-sports, is human nature. Trust. You either trust somebody or you don't, and after seven years of "we gotta get better"s and "that's on me"s and now a wave of back-breaking turnovers, there is no possible way that anybody on the team, in that locker room, could trust Matt Schaub.
Telling the world they do trust him makes them good teammates, but fearing the worst with Schaub deep down doesn't make them bad teammates. It makes them human.
So the sample space (85 games together and counting) is there. The evidence in big games (65.0 passer rating, and now, what I would say is a 6-12 record in "big" games as a Texan) is there. Matt Schaub is not bad, he is catastrophically bad.
Your season is now on the brink, Gary. Hell, let's face it, your head coaching career is probably on the brink.
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If you trot Matt Schaub out there on Sunday or at any point going forward, don't say you weren't warned, and if it happens again, if the city gets "Schaubbed" one more time, we know you'll step up to the podium after the game as you always do and say, "That's on me."
This time, you better goddamn mean it. You gotta do something, man. Try a different ride. Something.
Because, at some point, this minivan is gonna get us all killed.
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.