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Who Should Start--Matt Schaub Or T.J. Yates? The Writers Weigh In

In a "Hair of the Dog" style post, peer into the Batte Red Blog's Debate Hall as we talk about the quagmire that is Houston's current quarterback situation.

"Not this week, kid, but keep battlin'."
"Not this week, kid, but keep battlin'."
Rob Carr

Can a quarterback be a team's "best chance to win" and also its worst enemy? This is at the root of the Matt Schaub dilemma. He has the experience and knowledge, but has the ability dried up? Is moving in another direction at the position the same as giving up on the season? Read on as BRB's crack team of writers on crack tackle these questions, and please note that these e-mails were exchanged before Gary Kubiak announced that Matt Schaub would remain the Texans' starting QB.

The Question


Who would you start on Sunday-- Schaub, Yates, or (throw logic right out the window) Keenum? Why?

The Hard-Liners


I've seen nothing in T.J. Yates in either the preseason or in his limited mop up duty to suggest that he's any better than he was as a rookie (and if you can't impress against second/third stringers in the preseason, then... well...). So, switching to Yates right now is nothing more than saying, "I give up on the season," and I think there's too much talent on this roster to draw that conclusion this early in the season.

Despite my absolute lack of confidence with Schaub, I think the 2% chance that Schaub and Kubes figure this thing out is greater than the 1% chance that Yates goes all Tom Brady (and I mean that ONLY in the sense of him coming in as a backup and tearing stuff up)


Yates. Because he's a homeless man's Aaron Rodgers. And because he's not Matt Schaub.

Here's what I don't get: whether you assume that the problem is Schaub or Kubiak's scheme, the end result is the same. Either (a) Schaub no longer has the ability to make the throws/avoid the rush or (b) Kubiak's system is so stale that a QB without mobility and without a strong arm can't possibly make it work.

In either scenario, T.J. Yates represents an upgrade, because he's mobile enough that the bootleg is a legit thing again and he has a much stronger arm than Schaub. We were saying both of those things in 2011, at least about Yates' tools relative to Schaub's. But the knock on Yates now is...what? That he hasn't looked impressive in limited, mainly preseason snaps? That he didn't look impressive when he got in the game the other night? So, rather than see if he might actually look good once he got some reps with the first team, people want to stick with Schaub, who absolutely doesn't look good with the first team? How does that make sense?

I don't buy the "switching to Yates means you're giving up on the season" argument, either. In fact, I'd argue just the opposite -- switching to Yates now (or, if the team had balls, signing Josh Freeman last week) would mean that you are trying to right the ship and hopefully save the season, because you've determined that Schaub is the main, non-Mariciano problem at the moment. That is, unless you really think that Schaub is this close to turning it around putting together a big run. In which case, I'd have to ask what you are basing that on, given the data you currently have.

Bayless Parsley (remember him?):

I agree with [MDC]. Schaub is a broken man who can't throw a deep pass and can't stand strong in the pocket. Defenses know what's coming and it saps the potential for our running game to compensate, not to mention increases by a factor of 100 the chances of Schaub's out passes getting picked.

Obviously any scenario that results in a playoff berth involves the D playing out of its mind and no more missed FG by worst-draft-pick-ever Bullock.

I was never able to watch preseason and have no experience seeing Case Keenum. Everyone talked back then of how he and Yates were so close. So why is the only serious talk about replacing Schaub with T.J.? Experience in the '11 playoff run?


What Operation Shutdown Logic (MDC) said.

Schaub IS clearly the best QB on the roster, but he's just not there mentally, and he hasn't been for a while. I'm also of the school believing the scheme is more to blame than the QB.


I think there are several legitimate complaints to make about the scheme, but the fact is that when you aren't an elite athlete, playing quarterback in the NFL is about balancing the right amount of certain skill sets. Without the deep ball, there's no reason to not play man and blitz Schaub. There's no reason to not attack him on those boots because he can't make you pay. You lose one bit -- and I think we started seeing this from about the Pats game on -- and suddenly nothing else works exactly the same way.

And let's not kid ourselves: Schaub was NEVER a good bet to age well. I've been saying that for years. He's our Elvis Grbac.

I don't buy any of this mentality stuff. I don't think he's Knoblauching himself out of the league. This is a talent issue, plain and simple... He used to have a deep ball. Now he doesn't. Time makes fools of us all.


Schaub is still the best bet for this team to win. I'd stick with Schaub. The only reason you'd go with either of the backups is if you've decided the season is pretty much a lost cause.


I'm starting Schaub. I think T.J. is about as average as average gets. It's pretty obvious that Kubiak has no trust in him or else he'd actually be a legitimate threat to start. Even when Yates has played, it's been with very rare passing opportunities. As for Keenum, he's lucky to be on a NFL roster. I honestly don't believe another NFL team would sign him if released. If Skip Bayless is your biggest supporter then there's serious issues. By default, it's Schaub. De-fault! De-fault! De-fault!

Schaub really hasn't been the same guy since Fat Albert fell on him. Even last year, it was more about J.J. Watt being so damned good than Schaub being good. You hate to say it, but Albert Haynesworth probably cost Houston a Super Bowl...that team was flat-out rolling.

To pile on Yates...If the UNC offense wasn't so similar to Houston's, Yates isn't in the NFL. Also, UNC football sucks

The Handwringers


My only real hesitation at benching Schaub is that I think he's so mentally defeated at this point that Kubes would lose the option of going back to him if/when Yates falters.

That said, Kubiak forfeits all right to preach about protecting the football if he keeps running Schaub out there. If it was anyone else, their ass would be chained to the bench.


One more game for Schaub to right himself against a "weaker" opponent. If the Texans offense puts up another stinker, then it's time to try Yates.

MDC likened him to Rodgers, but I compare him more to Romo. He definitely doesn't have the same arm strength but he's got some Romo-ish moves in the pocket.


I would bench Schaub only if he throws a pick six in the first half. Other than that I'd say keep him in since the other two ain't no good.

Also what do you think would happen if Schaub threw a pick six in the first half. Would they throw rotting fruit at him or would they just riot the field?

The Hollowed Out


All three of them are not the answer, so I don't even care anymore.


(puts on crazy fan hat) Just have Foster and Tate in the backfield together and run the wishbone.


I'd probably go with Yates, but only after throwing up in my mouth.

A Bit of Each?

Vega (again)

1. There is an element of selection bias going on here. Schaub has had moments this year where he has looked very good (as Weston pointed out). In fact, I would argue that the SF game is the only game where he was consistently terrible throughout. For argument's sake, let's say that Sherman drops his pick and that the pick in the Balt game doesn't get returned for a TD. The discussion now is probably about how Schaub isn't a long term solution or maybe how to best upgrade the position in the offseason, but I seriously doubt anyone would be clamoring to replace him with Yates in week 6. Yes, I know those two pick-sixes did happen, and yes I know that not all passes are of equal importance, but let's not allow 4 out of the 212 passes to completely drive the discussion. They are a key data point, but we must consider the entire picture.

2. If we all believe, as I think we do, that Kubiak is too stubborn/stupid/crazy to modify his play calling to account for Schaub's deficiencies, then we have to agree that he will not modify his play calling to account for any of Yates' deficiencies either. We may not know what those are as intimately as we do Schaub's, but they are there, and they may be just as bad. Just, perhaps, different.

3. Aside from "not being Schaub," which admittedly is an admirable trait at the moment, what evidence do we have that Yates is an upgrade?

4. Follow up to the previous question: Where does "almost losing your backup job to Keenum" rank on that list?

5. Why is Rick Dennison getting a complete pass here? If memory serves, he's actually the one calling the plays and Kubiak simply has veto-rights. This offense has never been as dynamic since he took over. Bring back Baby Shan.

6. All in all, my point is that the argument for Yates is essentially "he can't be any worse," and I guess I fall more in the "Schaub probably isn't THIS bad" camp. It's just a crappy position to be in.

Weigh in with your own thoughts in the Comments below.

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