Case Keenum Is Gary Kubiak's Last Hope for Keeping His Job

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystOctober 18, 2013

Sep 29, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak watches from the sideline during the third quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Reliant Stadium. The Seahawks defeated the Texans 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans entered the 2013 season as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the eyes of many.

Now, head coach Gary Kubiak may be counting on an undrafted second-year quarterback, who has never thrown an NFL pass, to save his job.

With the Texans teetering on the brink after losing four straight and starting quarterback Matt Schaub sidelined by an ankle injury, Kubiak made the announcement.

As Tania Ganguli of reported, Case Keenum (and not T.J. Yates) will start under center for the Texans against the Kansas City Chiefs. Kubiak said of the decision:

We're struggling, and we're looking for a spark. I think he deserves an opportunity to go out there. It's a tough place to play. It's a tough place to get your first start and all that good stuff. But I'm not sending him out there by himself. I'm sending him out there with his football team, and the guys understand that.

Keenum wasn't even active for the first six games of the season, and it was Yates who entered last week's loss to the St. Louis Rams when Schaub went down.

Yates led the Texans to a playoff berth and first-round win as a rookie back in 2011, when Schaub was lost for the year after 10 games. However, any positive mojo left over from that magical run two years ago appeared to be long gone against the Rams.

Linebacker Alec Ogletree intercepted Yates on his fifth attempt last week. Ogletree returned that pick for a touchdown, the fifth straight game in which Houston's opponent has returned an interception for a score.

That's where the real problem lies. It's not Yates per se. Inserting Keenum into the lineup is a Hail Mary call by Kubiak. He's trying to stop the bleeding.

2013 Houston Texans
1at San Diego ChargersW (31-28)
2Tennessee TitansW (30-24)
3at Baltimore RavensL (30-9)
4Seattle SeahawksL (23-20)
5at San Francisco 49ersL (34-3)
6St. Louis RamsL (38-13)
Through Week 6

Since winning their first two games, the Texans have lost four straight games by a combined score of 125-45. The skid has included blowout losses to Baltimore, San Francisco and St. Louis, as well as a home loss to the Seattle Seahawks during which the Texans blew a 20-3 halftime lead.

A season that started off with great promise has fallen apart, and when that happens, fingers start getting pointed.

The first direction those fingers generally point is at the head coach:

Since starting the 2012 season 11-1, the Texans have gone 4-8 over their last 12 games, playoffs included. As Adam Schein of points out, criticism of Kubiak's play-calling and clock management has grown louder and louder.

If the skid continues and the Texans fail to make the postseason, then owner Bob McNair may decide that this incarnation of the Texans has gone as far as it can. If the winds of change blow through Houston, odds are Kubiak will be blown right out the door.

The problem is, if Case Keenum is Kubiak's last hope, then he'd better get his house on the market.

Case Keenum College Stats

Yes, Keenum was a wildly productive player at the the University of Houston, and he's immensely popular locally.

He's also a pop-gun-armed system quarterback who is so good that he spent last year on the practice squad and this year inactive.

Here's what Dane Brugler of CBS Sports had to say recently about Keenum:

Why did Keenum go undrafted? Below average size (6-1, 208), average-at-best arm strength and limited mobility to do much with his legs. His ball appears to flutter, especially when he doesn't have a chance to wind up and step into his throws. Keenum holds several NCAA passing records, but those numbers came in an offense that inflated his statistics and allowed him to take advantage of a quick passing attack where he didn't need to make extensive pocket reads. He wasn't asked to consistently make NFL throws as the Cougars quarterback, and at the end of the day, his lack of ideal physical tools were enough for teams to pass.

If the Texans were hosting Jacksonville this week, maybe Keenum could spend the afternoon handing off to Arian Foster, the Texans could eke out a win over the Jaguars and Keenum, Kubiak and the Texans could live to fight another day.

However, Keenum will be making his first NFL start on the road against an undefeated Chiefs team whose defense leads the NFL in sacks and fewest points allowed. The game will be played in a stadium where fans just set a Guinness world record for the loudest stadium in the world.

As debuts go, it's a nightmare scenario. But at this point, the Texans (and Kubiak) are fresh out of options. Schaub's hurt, and Yates was terrible.

So, Keenum it is.

Is it possible that Keenum will play well? Yes. It's even more possible that the Indianapolis Colts will lose to the Denver Broncos this week, so at least the Texans won't fall any further off the pace in the AFC South.

With that said, the odds that Houston will beat Kansas City and climb to within a game of first place are just not good. At all.

And so next week, we'll be talking about a five-game losing streak. Fans who wanted to strangle Schaub last week will probably be hoping that his ankle feels better. And we'll likely be talking about how the seat under Gary Kubiak has gotten hotter still.

That's the problem with the Hail Mary.

It very rarely works.


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