Gary Kubiak's Questionable QB Calls Could Signal End to Stint in Houston

Ryan CookContributor INovember 17, 2013

Nov 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Something big happened in Houston on Sunday afternoon. 

In a game between two of this season's biggest underachievers, a confrontation between quarterback and wide receiver is now the talk of the week, as the Houston Texans watched another winnable game go by the wayside. 

Just when everybody expected Matt Schaub to be done and Case Keenum to be the guy, Gary Kubiak wasn't done messing with our heads. 

Three straight weeks of Keenum impressing everyone obviously wasn't good enough for the Texans coaching staff to guarantee him the starting job, and when the going got tough in the third quarter against the Raiders on Sunday, Kubiak made the bold move to pull the plug. 

At the time, the Texans were struggling for points. It wasn't a blowout like the Texans have allowed in recent weeks, but the offense was missing the spark it had in the past fortnight - so why not bring in Schaub to try and kill it altogether?

By game's end, Schaub had done nothing that Keenum wasn't capable of. His presence in the game lead to just two field goals, and with the offensive line a complete mess, it really didn't matter if Keenum, Schaub or Joe Montana himself were standing under center. 

The principle of benching Keenum, though, is where many people will find fault. After a solid month of building the kid up into a more confident quarterback, only to see him hit stride and show the accuracy that the passing game sorely needed, why take another opportunity to win the game away from him?

Really, the only logical explanation is that Kubiak was desperate for some closure on the whole Schaub thing, and wanted to give him that one last opportunity to show he has what it takes or to put the entire question to bed. 

Now that the Texans have their eighth straight loss on the record, it seems like the question should be put to bed. 

But of course, if Kubiak does have any doubt about who should be starting next week against Jacksonville, he needn't look far for an answer. In fact, he just needs to watch the postgame tape that everyone is talking about to know that there may be bigger issues on this team than the question of who is leading the offense.

When wide receiver Andre Johnson left the field after the Texans blew the game away in the red zone, he wasn't exactly short of words. Confronting Schaub before fleeing to the locker room to cool off, neither player shook hands or greeted any Raiders players, making it clear that the frustrations don't just end on the field. 

Johnson has since downplayed the incident, saying that it was in the heat of the moment. Even so, Kubiak has to be concerned about what his decision to bench Keenum portrays to the entire team.

To be fair, Kubiak doesn't seem like the kind of coach who would unfairly bench a player, after all, even through the entire Ed Reed saga, he never spoke negatively. 

Perhaps it comes down to trust though. Does Kubiak really trust Keenum, a rookie, to lead the offense through the rest of this rebuilding phase?

Who knows? But he definitely should, because the same old predictable play from Schaub to Johnson in the end zone didn't fool anyone on Sunday. 

Nov 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum (7) throws an interception under pressure from Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Stacy McGee (92) at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

That's the thing; out of everything we've seen from Keenum, he's looked like the more talented quarterback. Seemingly gone were the days of the immobile Schaub, and in were the days of Keenum, a quarterback who could be forced to the sidelines and still hit a wide-open Garrett Graham down the middle like he did in the second quarter this week. 

All the tangibles are there. It's just a few minor flaws in Keenum's decision making that have prevented him from pulling off those final-second comebacks. 

Schaub and Johnson may be good friends, but a friendship isn't any good to a team that frankly shouldn't need to rely on great quarterback play to beat a struggling Raiders team. 

It's been a tough month for Kubiak physically and mentally, but being trigger-happy up in the booth and pulling a guy for showing some slight struggles probably won't win him any votes to stay around as the head coach much longer.

When the season began, the Texans quarterback battle was a good problem to have. Now it's just a headache. And with rash decisions coming at odd moments, there are a lot of jobs on the line—not just on the field.