The Pro Bowl on Sunday was an interesting sight. No Peyton Manning. No Kurt Warner. No Drew Brees. No Brett Favre. Matt Schaub proved to be the star out of the stars and took home the Pro Bowl MVP award. Now some of you might say that Pro Bowl is a joke, but there is no denying that Matt Schaub has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year. That is why he was at the Pro Bowl in the first place.
For those who have short term memories, Schaub was picked as a late third round pick out of Virginia in 2004 by the Atlanta Falcons. At the time, the Falcons already had their franchise quarterback in Michael Vick, who is just coming to his own. They only used a third round pick on Schaub to groom him as the backup to Vick.
Due to his unfortunate circumstances and low name recognition, Schaub seemed destined to be a career backup, deprived of a chance to star. For 3 years, Schaub only made cameos on the field and his performance was underwhelming.
Luckily for Schaub, the Houston Texans recognized his vast potential and used 2 second round picks and swapped first round picks with the Falcons just to get him in 2007. Moreover, they immediately named him the starter and signed him to a lucrative deal. Such faith and investment in a career backup is virtually unheard of.
For the next 2 years, Schaub showed sign of occasional brilliance while struggling with injuries and inconsistency. His overall performance was underwhelming. Yet, management continued to show their faith in Schaub by not drafting a potential franchise quarterback through the draft. They also traded backup Sage Rosenfels, generally considered one of the better backups in the NFL, this offseason to avoid a potential quarterback controversy after Rosenfels filled in admirably in the previous 2 seasons when Schaub was injured. Everything came together for Schaub this year.
Schaub's brilliance and success story brought me to the issue I want to discuss in this article: Troy Smith's trade request.
Troy Smith was a former Heisman Trophy Winner in 2007 for the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes. Due to his lack of size, Smith fell to the 5th round in the 2007 draft. However, during training camps, pre-season, and his rare cameos in game, Smith demonstrated that he is a lot better than his draft slot indicates. After backing up the late Steve McNair in his rookie season, Smith had an encouraging offseason. Unfortunately, the team's management decided to go toward a different direction in the draft by drafting the unproven QB from the University of Delaware (a subdivision school) with all the potential in the world: Joe Flacco. It was clear that, like Schaub, team management views Smith as their future backup not future starter.
Following the retirement of McNair, it was a three way battle for the starting spot. Team management was determined not to rush Flacco, so it was presumed that either Smith or former franchise quarterback bust Kyle Boller will get to start in the first few weeks of the season at least. Smith was thought to be the front-runner with his surprisingly strong play, but he became ill with a rare case of tonsillitis. Flacco became the starter after Boller also came down with a season-ending injury and never looked back.
I strongly believe that Flacco is not necessarily better than Smith. But given what the franchise has invested in Flacco, this debate is moot. Many so-called experts seem to forget that Smith is only one year older than Flacco. He is not a journeyman. Like Schaub, he can still be someone's quarterback of the future. In fact, he had played better than Schaub 3 seasons in at this point. I don't understand why someone can't give him a chance to at least compete for a starting job. The media seems to think his trade request and his desire to start is a joke. I don't know if it's racism or what. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the Pro Bowl in 3 years.
Give Troy Smith a chance. This guy has been a winner wherever he goes. He's a competitor. At age 25, he is barely older than most of the rookies. With 3 years of experience with NFL coaching and learning from the sideline, he is more ready than the rookies. Who knows? He might pull an Aaron Rodgers. A team could do worse than using a second round pick to acquire him. The draft is pretty much crapshoot anyway.