If you were lucky enough to not watch one Houston Texans' football game this season and wanted to know "what the hell is wrong with them?", this would be the one to watch. Sunday's game against the Rams was a microcosm of failure bundled up in a tight, neat synopsis of sorrow. It was all there: pick-sixes, disgusting special teams play, predictable play-calling, penalties, turnovers, nausea-inducing red zone defense, and boos splattering upon Matt Schaub as he rolled around on the ground after an apparent ankle injury. It was an embarrassment and it was hysterical. At 2-4, the division race is quite possibly over, the wild card is more than unlikely, and the rest of the season will be spent by Gary Kubiak trying to climb out of the two foot deep puddle he's drowning in. It was a fitting death for August's high expectations.
When the pick-sixes and free points first started occurring, I chalked it up to bad luck. There was no way it would keep happening, right? However, the fun kept going. Even in Week Six, this team is handing away points more freely than ketchup packets at a Whataburger. The fine-tuned Houston Texans that played perfect football in the past have turned into a drunk David Hasselhoff. If it happened once or twice, it could be blamed on seeing a black cat on the way to the stadium or walking underneath one too many ladders. When it happens this frequently, the blame is laid on nobody else but the head coach. This time the index finger is pointed at Gary Kubiak. Not Durga, faith, or destiny. The Texans make mistakes and give out points because they are predictable and poorly coached. I discussed it earlier this year, but miscues and free points have been the theme to this season. We'll need to revisit it again. Below are the points Houston has given out freely this year.
||7 (7)||Pass Tipped at Line, INT, Ball @ HOU 15-TD following play|
||3||Schaub INT, ball @ HOU 23- FG @ HOU 29
|7 (10)||Schaub Pick 6 Pass to Hopkins|
||3||Ball @ HOU 36, 21 YD Pass Interference Ball @ 21, FG @ HOU 10
|7||Schaub Pick 6 Pass to Daniels|
|7 (17)||Doss Punt Return for a TD|
||3||Ball @ SEA 30, 33 YD Pass Interference Ball @ HOU 37, FG @ 31|
|3||Tate Fumble @ HOU 21, FG @ 21|
|7||Schaub Pick 6 pass to Daniels|
Ball @ SEA 49, Unnecessary Roughness on Jackson +7 YD Pass, Ball @ HOU 36
FG @ HOU 27
||7||Schaub Pick 6 Pass to Johnson|
|7||Schaub INT Ball @ HOU 32|
|7||Schaub INT Ball @ SF 31|
|3 (24)||Tate Fumble @ HOU 8 , FG @ 6
||7||Ball @ STL 35, Pass Interference on Jackson 40 Yards, Ball @ HOU 25|
|3||Hopkins Fumble, Ball @ HOU 43, FG @ HOU 24|
|7||Martin Fumble on Kickoff|
|7 (24)||Yates Pick Six Pass to Graham|
Now I understand some of these drives could be inferred other ways, and those that are arguable I put in bold. For example, when DeAndre Hopkins fumbled the ball on Sunday, the defense returned it to Houston's 43 and the Rams then moved the ball 19 more yards to put them in field goal position. That could be looked at as the defense having a chance to make a stop and failing, but the point is the Rams received the ball at Houston's 43 because Hopkins failed to take care of the football. Even if you remove arguable points, we are left with Houston giving away 85 points. Yes, I understand the opposing defense forced those turnovers and did take some action to score, but the points were dependent on the Texans screwing up. The other teams scored because they took advantage of a mistake made, not because they did something only they had control over.
If we break it down even further, Houston has allowed 49 points when the opposing offense wasn't on the field, 68 points off giveaways, and 16 points off drives with disastrous penalties. Now if we take the 98 given up this year and divide it by 6, we get an average of 19.6 points given away per game. Then we can compare it to 21.2 the Texans have scored per game, and we have a team that is just barely scoring more points than they are handing to the other team.
If you look at just points allowed, the Texans' defense has been awful this year, surrendering 177 (29th in the league). However, Houston has a DVOA of -9.2% (9th, last weeks numbers) and if you remove these gimme points, they have allowed 79 points, which puts them tied for third with the Colts. Some of these are arguable; turnovers and mistakes happen, but they usually don't happen at this rate. It's amazing to witness a team continually guzzling Drano even after being carted off to the hospital multiple times.
Then we can take these free points and add a few more things to develop an even bleaker picture. If we look at penalties, Houston is ranked 31st in penalties (46) and last in penalty yards 459. It's not simply a case of bad luck since they've benefited from 47 opponent penalties (3rd) for 365 yards (10th). When we take the free yards and turnovers and add it with the horrendous red zone defense, we have the perfect storm of disaster.
In the red zone, Houston has allowed touchdowns at a rate of 76.47%, last in the NFL and 100% of the time at home. When drives have ended inside Houston's 20 yard line. opponents have scored 13 touchdowns and have kicked 3 field goals. In other words, there hasn't been a single drive inside the 20 where the Texans haven't given up points. Red zone touchdown percentage is supposed to even out as the year progresses, but it still hasn't and it might not this year. I have no clue if this is a result of scheme (spoiler-I might end up writing a post on this), personnel or what, but it is putrid.
Now when we throw all of this into the pot and let it boil, we get the type of game we saw on Sunday. Houston outgained the Rams 420 yards to 216, ran 42 more plays, and held the ball for 10 minutes and 20 seconds longer. The Rams scored 17 points off turnovers and turned a 40 yard Kareem Jackson pass interference penalty into another 7. The Texans turned the ball over four times (losing both of their fumbles); the Rams had zero turnovers. Additionally, St. Louis scored 14 points where they were not helped in any way by Houston's mistakes and scored three touchdowns on all three of their trips inside Houston's twenty-yard line. Sunday's game was the result of the same problems that plagued Houston all season--turnovers, penalties and poor red zone defense.
Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates or Case Keenum?
When Schaub's leg bent like a branch struck by lightning, some imbeciles erupted in applause and revelry. I won't get into it because there's nothing worth saying or reading about a thousand people who never developed the frontal lobe of their brain. He was helped off the field, brought to a table to have his foot wrapped, and T.J. Yates was then given his chance to play
For the second time in franchise history, we witnessed what a Yates-led Texans team looks like. He took over on 2nd and 16 at the Rams' 29 yard line and threw passes for 4 yards and 7 yards before underthrowing DeAndre Hopkins on 4th down. Luckily, Chris Long jumped offsides after slobbering at the mouth in anticipation of taking down Yates and the drive continued. The Texans ran the ball for four yards, threw an incompletion and completed a short pass to DeVier Posey for three yards to set up a 4th and 3 at the St. Louis 6.
The best play this season wasn't Brian Cushing's pick-six against the Chargers or DeAndre Hopkins' game-winning touchdown in Week Two. It was actually what Yates did on 4th and 3. He dropped back to pass, stared down Garrett Graham as he ran the the same hitch route Daryl Smith picked Matt Schaub off on and returned for a touchdown three weeks earlier, and threw the ball right to Alec Ogletree. As soon of the ball hit his hands, I leaped out of my seat like it was an electric chair and yelled, "GO, GO, GO, GO!" while waving my arms like a third base coach until he crossed the end zone. Then I put my straight jacket on and maniacally laughed in the corner for the remainder of the game. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I still don't know what I loved more, the sweet irony of the interception or seeing the same curl route being picked off.
Down goes Schuab...— Matt Weston (@Mbw987) October 13, 2013
I hope Yates throws a pick 6 #Texans— Matt Weston (@Mbw987) October 13, 2013
I hope me and my 48 followers enjoyed my Yates kind of sort of pick 6 call.— Matt Weston (@Mbw987) October 13, 2013
Then, to top it off, Yates threw another interception after fluttering a pass into the corner of the end zone to Garrett Graham. Yeah, Kubiak starting Matt Schaub over T.J. Yates was a real dilemma. If that was a tough decision. I wonder how long it takes for him to decide whether to wear a long sleeved blue shirt to match his blue pants or a short sleeved blue shirt to match his blue pants.
In other words, Yates ain't no good at throwing the football. He's just another Kubiak checkdown zombie who's worse than Schaub and slightly more athletic. So now the cries of Yates will turn into coos for Case Keenum. Choosing between Yates and Keenum is like deciding whether to have boiled rat or microwaved gerbil for dinner; either one is going to have the same consistency, flavor, and chance for disease. The difference between Yates and Keenum is simply the fact that most Texans' fans watched Keenum play in their backyard for six years. They saw him come back from ACL surgery, they saw him throw 9 touchdown passes against Rice, they saw him throw for 471 yards against UTEP. They fell in love with him as they watched him throw the ball 50-60 times to wide open receivers and now they want to see what he can do in the pros. The thing is that there is a 99% chance he should only be a 3rd string quarterback and maybe, just maybe, a 2nd stringer. Here are the top eleven passers in NCAA history with their NFL stats and record.
|Landry Jones||4th (115)||0||0||0||0||0-0||1|
|Colt Brennan||6th (186)||0||0||0||0||0-0||2|
|Phillip Rivers||1st (4)||29,501||64.1||202||98||72-45||10|
|Colt McCoy||3rd (85)||4,388||58.3||21||20||6-15||4|
|Kevin Kolb||2nd (36)||5,206||59.5||28||25||9-12||7|
|Dan LeFevour||6th (181)||0||0||0||0||0||2|
Now Keenum's college record doesn't look like the indicator of future success as it has in the past, does it? All of these players except for Philip Rivers will only be cherished in the bubble that surrounds their college campus. Their only remembrance in the NFL will be nostalgic conversations that go, "Remember when we were so bad that Kevin Kolb was our starting quarterback?". Even if you look at ranks 12 to 20, you get names like Luke McCown, Tim Rattay, Chase Daniel, Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Barkley. Are any of those guys even adequate players? No, they aren't. Keenum, like all of these players, was the result of perfecting a throw-the-ball-on-every-down system they played under for 4-5 years while beating up on inferior competition. The good quarterbacks in the nation leave for the NFL. They don't stay in college for five years or play in a gimmick offense. The only thing separating Keenum from Colt Brennan and Graham Harrell is the fact that he went to the University of Houston. If Case went to North Dakota State, this wouldn't matter. If Kellen Moore was the Texans' third string quarterback, the pleas for him to play would be soft scratchy whispers. If anything, Case Keenum is Andre Ware or David Klinger. At least NFL franchises were smart enough and learned their lesson to not waste a high draft pick on him.
So what should Houston do the rest of the year? I would like to see Houston start Schuab in a farewell tour from hell against the Chiefs, Colts, Cardinals, Raiders, Jags and Pats to see what their record is. If they are 4-8, bench him and let Keenum flail around and send off the franchise's greatest quarterback in the last game of the season against the Titans. The best they will do is maybe 6-10 or 7-9 with Schaub starting, which will still bring a top 15 pick. Or they can take the lower route through the sewers, tank the rest of the year, and outJaguar the Jaguars. Whatever happens, the coffin has dropped into the grave and the dirt is now being tossed on top of it.
Jake Delhomme:Matt Schaub:2012 Kansas City Chiefs:2013Houston Texans
Despite the failure this season has been so far, there is room for optimism. The 2013 Texans aren't a talentless dumpster fire. They're just a dumpster fire. Their roster is stacked at linebacker, running back, defensive line, cornerback, and wide receiver. They do have problems at head coach, offensive line and quarterback. In this league, you can't win games if you have problems at both quarterback and head coach, even though you can win with one and not the other (cue up the 2006 Bears with Rex Grossman and the 2009 Colts with Jim Caldwell). The optimism is that Houston is loaded with talent at every position except for the two most important. Meaning Houston is not going to have to blow up the entire team this offseason; they can change two positions and make a run next season, a la the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.
Through the first six weeks of the 2012 season, the Kansas City Chiefs were 1-5. They scored 104 points compared to 183 allowed, even though they were able to consistently outgain the opposing team. When looking at turnovers, the Chiefs lost the ball 23 times on offense and forced 6 turnovers on defense, which equals a turnover differential of -17. They were mired with quarterback problems as they started Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn back and forth with the same futile results. Despite these problems, they were still able to run the ball and had a team filled with talent. They had six Pro Bowlers in Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Dustin Colquitt despite going 2-14. The talent was there, but the quarterback play and coaching wasn't.
In the offseason, they immensely improved at head coach by signing Andy Reid and went from a pile of bloody underpants to Alex Smith at quarterback. With the #1 pick, the Chiefs selected Eric Fisher, moved Brandon Albert to right tackle, and solved their pass protection woes. Now the 2013 Chiefs are 6-0, have a turnover differential of +9 (1st), and have outscored opponents by 87 points (2nd). The entire team has turned around because their turnover luck improved and they went from dreadful to commendable at the two most important positions.
The 2013 Texans are eerily similar. They're one of the most talented teams in the league, have outgained their opponents in nearly every game, yet have lost games because of sloppy play, turnovers, predictable play-calling and poor quarterback play. Through their first six games, they have a turnover differential of -12 (31st, 5 better than KC last year), scored 106 points (26th, 2 more than KC), allowed 177 (28th, 6 less than KC), and a point differential of -71 (30th, 8 better than KC). The key is the talent they already have. J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Duane Brown, and Arian Foster will make the Pro Bowl this year. Johnathan Joseph, Antonio Smith, and Kareem Jackson have chances to. If they make changes at quarterback and head coach, the Texans can dramatically improve next season.
This is what has to and must happen. Gary Kubiak has entered the Andy Reid Zone; he needs to go somewhere else and start anew. Like all relationships, sometimes they grow stagnant as little problems that are swept under the run turn into dust bunnies the size of Raticates. Kubiak needs a fresh start to take his run, run, pass offense somewhere else like Oakland. The time has come to leave Houston. He can start whomever he wants at quarterback, but it won't change the fact that this season is dead and gone.
Schaub can play the backup Mark Brunell role for a team with a young quarterback or maybe hang out on the sideline for the right team until he wins a ring. If Houston fires Kubiak, cuts Schaub and moves on, they should see a six game swing next year as long as they don't hire Dom Capers and draft David Carr's little brother. This season sucks, but at least the defense is fun to watch and we won't be wallowing through the misery of a 2002-2010 sort of drought.
R.I.P., Schuabiak (3/22/07 to ??/??/13)
All Good Things Must Fall Apart.