Heading into the 2013 NFL season, things seemed to be set in stone in Houston. The Texans had one of the best defenses in the league, they drafted DeAndre Hopkins to play opposite Andre Johnson, and it was assumed that Matt Schaub was going to continue his solid play and lead the Texans on another playoff run.
Now, a mere eight weeks later, the Texans’ season is slowly spiraling out of control. They currently sit in third place in the AFC South with a record of 2-5. The defense has played well, but the quarterback position has not been this unstable since the David Carr era.
On one hand, Houston has Schaub. He has been the ultimate game manager for the Texans, leading them to two playoff appearances, although he was injured during the 2011 postseason.
But he is playing some of the worst football of his career this season. First, he set a record for most consecutive games with a pick-six with four. Next, he was injured in the red zone against the St. Louis Rams.
In relief, TJ Yates did his best Schaub impression, throwing a 98-yard pick-six on his first passing attempt of the game.
Watching the regression of Schaub has been tough. He no longer exhibits the ability to read defenses like he once could. Against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5, he threw an ill-advised pass to Andre Johnson, despite the defensive back, Tramaine Brock, having inside position and tons of open field in front of him.
Behind Schaub and Yates, the Texans have a young quarterback out of the University of Houston, Case Keenum.
Keenum, who was named the starter in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, is making a strong case to take over the reins under center. Considering that he was matched up against one of the top defenses in the league, he played well.
He threw for 271 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions. He did, however, have two fumbles in the 17-16 loss. Those two fumbles weren’t exactly his fault, as he was hit from behind by a defensive player both times and lost control of the ball. He will need to learn to maintain control of the ball, even with a defender breathing down his neck.
What stuck out the most in that game was his confidence. Keenum didn’t look like he was scared of the spotlight at all. With the atmosphere at Arrowhead—where the Chiefs allegedly have the loudest crowd in sports—and the elite defense, it is hard for any quarterback to exhibit confidence against Kansas City.
Another surprise was that he threw risky passes down the field. Most young quarterbacks—actually, most quarterbacks—would be afraid to attempt the types of throws that Keenum was making. It is one thing to make the passes downfield, but it is another thing to complete them, which he was able to do multiple times.
Taking all of those things in mind, the Texans should stick with Keenum, even if Schaub returns to full health. Keenum nearly outplayed Alex Smith and almost led the Texans to a win over the undefeated Chiefs. Although almost winning doesn’t change the fact that Houston lost, Keenum had the Texans on the cusp of beating one of the league’s best teams.
The best-case scenario is that Keenum kicks the team into high gear, and the Texans rebound with enough time to clinch one of the two AFC wild-card spots.
In the worst-case scenario, coach Gary Kubiak decides to go with the Cleveland Browns’ revolving-door quarterback approach. After the Texans finish the season with a losing record, Kubiak and Schaub will be let go, and the Texans will be in position to draft their quarterback of the future, specifically Texas native and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.