In other circumstances, Matt Schaub and Kyle Shanahan might be a couple of guys you’d see hanging out together a lot—they share reasonably similar backgrounds, they’re about the same age, and have many of the same outlooks on life.
They wouldn’t look out of place mowing neighboring lawns, swapping stories about the wife and kids, or popping a cold one while barbequing in the backyard on some lazy Saturday afternoon.
The similarities help to cement a solid working relationship between Schaub, the starting quarterback of the Houston Texans, and Shanahan, the team’s offensive coordinator.
“We are the same age, so you can relate well to one another as far as life goes,” Schaub said on the team’s official website following the conclusion of Day 12 of mini-camp Tuesday.
“That helps us bond and be able to talk to one another one on one, and not like coach to player but like man to man, and be able to understand things and what we want out of the offense.”
Shanahan is the youngest offensive coordinator in the league, but showed in his first season he’s got the genius: He called the plays which helped the Texans boast the NFL’s third-best offense in 2008.
“It’s a little more fun being in my second year; not everything’s my first time,” he told the team website. “I’ve done it before, I know what to expect.”
It’s the third year together for the pair (Shanahan was the quarterbacks coach during Schaub’s first year with the team in 2007), and with Shanahan calling the plays, Schaub and Sage Rosenfels set records in both seasons for completions, passing yards, and touchdowns.
That part of the offensive combination isn’t going to change any time soon.
“(Calling plays is) what I expect my job to be,” Shanahan said.
For his part, Schaub’s content to follow Shanahan’s signals and rack up yards.
“I’d like to say (we’ll do) more quarterback runs, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. No,” Schaub joked.
“You know, we know what we do well. We’re not going to try and deviate, we’re not going to try and reinvent the wheel. Our offense is what made us successful last year, so we’re just going to keep doing those things.”
Both say that as the team nears the end of organized team workouts, they’re enthusiastic about the prospects for the 2009 season. Schaub said the team is much further along at this point than it was a year ago, and that could make a huge difference.
“So much further. You mention coming in healthy off last season, whereas last year I had that shoulder surgery and I was rehabbing that. I just feel more comfortable and confident in what I’m doing and what the coaches expect since last year,” Schaub said.
“I just understand the offense that much more. We know what we want to do; we know what we’re good at.”
While the team’s starting offense remains much the same as it was a year ago, Shanahan said small adjustments here and there to fine-tune things are always ongoing.
“You’ve got to stay on top of football; you’ve got to keep adjusting,” Shanahan said. “But we get to return our starters, all eleven guys. We had a pretty good year last year, so we’re just trying to get better and a little more detailed.”
“Every day, we’re getting better and we’re coming together,” Schaub said.
“We have a lot of you guys that are coming on board and they’re picking things up. We taught at a pretty slow pace this year—one install for every two days—but it helps us really. Everyone gets on the same page and we didn’t have the mental errors that you usually see early in OTAs, especially from young guys. It’s a way to come out and shake the rust off and get back in the swing of football.”
Of prime concern for the Texans this year, with Rosenfels now plying his trade in Minnesota, will be keeping Schaub healthy—he’s missed 10 games over the last two seasons because of injuries. The QB says he’s worked hard in the off-season to lessen the chance of that happening.
“You don’t know; it’s hard to tell until you get hit, but I feel strong in there and that was one thing I wanted to build up was my strength, getting stronger, and I think I did that,” he said. “…internally, you just feel that much more comfortable to stand in there an extra half-second to deliver that pass down the field and not be so quick to try and get out of the pocket.”