Writer's Note: This will all make sense. Just stick with me.
My feet dangled below me. They swayed like a wind chime exploding into the rail-doom, doom, doom-that I roosted upon. Once upon a time, the rail was red. Now it had soured into the ugliest Crayola color known to man, the dreaded red orange, thanks to the plethora of butts and kicks that preceded me. I glanced down at my hand. To the left of it, curse words varied from three to twelve words and genitals were chiseled into the set of conjoined metal bars by every tool imaginable: paper clips, knives (butter and pocket), scissors, and keys.
I lifted my head up from the work done by the archaic sculptors and gazed into the fog nested above the ground. The weather, lugubrious, perfect for a stroll through a cemetery and nothing else. It was as if a cotton candy machine the size of the Frank Erwin Center whirled too quickly and exploded, covering the world in its non-dyed excrement. The wind flowed in from the north with a right hook; when it made contact, it exploded with a flurry of tiny knives that left my face red and splotchy. I yanked the two chewed strings of my Old Navy hoodie and morphed into a scuba diver. Then I pulled my flip phone out of my pocket and pressed the L-shaped button on the right. The square screen illuminated with the digits 4:30 in the foreground of a picture of a beach ball and blanket. Back to the pocket it went. Like an escaped convict, my hands found refuge in the pockets protected by stomach. I waited.
Then, out of nothing, a battered blue Chevy Silverado emerged from the fog. It pulled into a drop-off that resembled the arc of a three-point line. The man inside waved at me. My backpack slid onto my shoulder. I dragged me feet over the sidewalk until they reached the asphalt. In one motion, I tossed the Jansport product into the bed and opened the car door to finally escape the tiny knives.
"How's it going Matthew?" the mouth protected by a goatee exclaimed.
"Oh, I'm doing fine," I replied amidst chattered teeth.
I moved the vents, splayed in directions to ensure heat for both parties, to point directly at me. My right hand turned the fan nob to crank the heat like a four-seamer unleashed from Francisco Cordero. The clock read 5:30.
"How was work?"
"Well first off, I'm sorry I was late to get you. Your mother needed me too.......What about you, how was school?"
"Eh, school was not too bad, it's school. We read Rebecca in English and my other classes were boring. Today was leg day and mat drills in football. I'm just ready to eat and crash."
'Here," his right hand emblazoned with a gold chevron, peaked out from a white-button up collard shirt and nudged a box towards me. "I was able to take a few of these from work."
Inside the box were oodles of Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, and the greatest cookie known to man, Oatmeal Raisin. The wrapper crinkled in my hand. Amongst my shuffle, I spotted two empty car seats in the rear-view mirror.
"Are we picking up the turds?"
"Yes, we have to stop by and get the kids. Your mother had to run some other errands."
"Uggggghhhhhh!"An avalanche sighed from my mouth.
I pulled my hoodie off and laid it on my lap. The lever to the right of my seat was in my right hand. With a pull, the seat flew back like a mobile futon. I began to tear into the crinkled wrapper.
The balding-tur-shaved headed man with a goatee and glasses turned the stereo nob to the right. Immediately we were were berated by the apocalyptic drones of political talk radio. He quickly clicked the "1".
The truck stopped at one of the many red lights as we slogged through a freeway turned into a parking en route to the north side of town.
With my eyes shut, I wondered aloud," I wonder what the Cowboys screwed up this time?".
My words were met with a hearty giggle that was muffled by a Body Solutions commercial emitted from the speaker.
Tst, tst, bwaw-bapa-du-du-du.
"Okay. we are back and this is Don Harris. The big news today is the David Carr experience is over," I ripped the lever up, and leaned forward. "And the Houston Texans have found their newest starting quarterback. After a 6-10 season, the Texans and Gary Kubiak have seen all they needed to with David Carr and have decided to part ways with the franchise's first draft pick. The Texans will release the former overall #1 pick and sent a 2007 and 2008 second round pick to the Atlanta Falcons. Additionally, they will flip-flop first round picks with the Falcons in the upcoming draft."
The word, "Huh" discharged from my throat like a death rattle.
David kept his eyes on the road and asked, "What do you think?" over the professional Cowboys fans banter.
"I don't know. I mean, I barely know who this guy is. I think I saw him play once when Vick was hurt, but that's it. It sucks, but Carr had to go and Houston needed to move on. Its a shame we never had an offensive line for him. Really, I'm just so sick of losing and rebuilding. It's been five years, and they still have not had a winning season, and now we have to start all over again at quarterback. Hopefully, for the first time there will be some continuity and some type of success."
Gary Kubiak spent the summer of 2007 teaching Matt Schaub the offense and getting him acclimated with the weapons surrounding him, most notably Andre Johnson. On September 9th, once preseason was over, the Texans unleashed him against the Kansas City Chiefs, Damon Huard at quarterback (1). On first and ten in the second quarter with 6:13 remaining, Schaub threw his first touchdown pass as a Texan. The backfield was lined in the "I" with Andre Johnson split wide to the right against single coverage. Matt received the snap, ducked his shoulder to fake the hand-off to Ron Dayne, and stepped back to pass. Andre Johnson beat his man easily on a deep post to the center of the field. Schaub heaved a glorious pass that traveled forty yards in the air. The ball fell from the heavens directly into Johnson's hands. The safety dove at his heels and missed. Consequently, Johnson turned up field with no one in front of him other than a blaze of screaming white t-shirts. Johnson galloped twenty yards before walking into the end zone as Schaub ran down the field on fire, with one finger raised, as he celebrated his first of what would be 44 touchdowns thrown by him to Andre Johnson.
The Texans won this game 23-20, and then beat the Panthers the following week. Against Carolina, Houston fell behind 14-0 early in the first half and then proceeded to score 34 unanswered points. This total was good for the most points scored in franchise history up to that point. Schaub was 20-28 for 227 yards and heaved two touchdowns, both of which were thrown to Andre Johnson, who had this to say after the game:
"Before, we would go down by 14 points early, the games were over. Now we go down by 14 points, everyone comes on the sideline and says, 'Hey, we're fine."
It was the first time the 24-56 Texans started off the season 2-0. Disappointingly, they preceded this franchise first by going 2-5 until the bye week. During this losing streak, the first of many injuries to plague Matt Schaub occurred against the Titans in Week Seven. In the first quarter, he missed time because of leg and ankle injuries. In the second quarter, he was knocked out of the game thanks to the most hated hit in football, the malicious helmet-to-helmet hit. Schaub was on the receiving end of one unleashed by Albert Haynesworth, who needed to open his mouth once the game concluded:
"Well, heck, I mean we probably would have won this game 35-7 if he stayed in. It was good to knock him out I guess, but he's going to come back and I don't think there'll be any kind of quarterback controversy because they pay that guy a lot of money."
The seeds of controversy planted by Albert Haynesworth would slowly blossom in the following weeks once Sage Rosenfels filled in for the injured Schaub. Matt missed time against Tennessee (Week 7), San Diego (Week 8), and Tennessee again (Week 11), and played zero snaps against the Raiders in Week 10 due to a concussion he sustained in the San Diego game. He also missed the rest of the season (Weeks 12-16) because of a dislocated shoulder. Rosenfels threw for 209 yards, 3 touchdowns and completed 27 of his 36 passes in a 28-14 win over the Bucs. After the game, Rosenfels had this to say:
"As a backup, you know sooner or later you're going to get a chance and you just have to make the most of it. I personally feel I am good enough to start in this league. But that's not something I can control."
In Schaub's absence, Rosenfels went 4-1; the Texans beat the Raiders, Buccaneers, Broncos, and Jaguars en route to an 8-8 season. The Texans managed to salvage their season and finished above 7-9 for the first time in franchise history, despite the fact Schaub missed either time or full games in eight of their games. The Texans wound up third in the AFC South with that 8-8 record. Rosenfels was not terrific; he looked like an average player, regardless of what insidious super-villain Albert Haynesworth claimed. Sage was exactly what a team looks for in a backup quarterback--adequate, nothing more, nothing less. Houston's quarterbacks posted the following numbers in 2007:
|Matt Schaub||4-7||66.4%||2,241||9||9||7.8||319 (18th)|
|Sage Rosenfels||4-1||64.2%||1,684||15||12||7.0||550 (15th)|
In 2007, we only saw the potential of Schaubiak due to frustrating, meddling injuries that forced Sage Rosenfels into the starting lineup. We did get a glimpse of Schaub's ability as a quarterback. He had a reasonably strong arm that could push the ball down field and into tight pockets, some mobility outside the pocket, a knack for making smart decisions, deceptive play-action fakes, the beginning of a strong bond with Andre Johnson, and a general goofiness. Regardless of the missed games, both he and Rosenfels provided decent play at quarterback for the first time in franchise history; their passing DVOA jumped from -20.3% (31st) to 14% (14th).
This and the changing culture were the keys to the Texans' 2007 season. Kubiak began turning a team who wallowed in a culture of self loathing and pity into a confident team who thought they could and should win. Andre Johnson believed it. Dunta Robinson believed it and even jabbered," There's no quit in us," following a 30-24 loss to Indy where the Texans turned a 27-10 deficit into something interesting down the stretch.
Schaub's best game: 23-10 Week 11 Win over New Orleans: 21-33 (63.6%), 293 YDs, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 112.3 Rating.
NFL Game Rewind Must See: Unavailable
Despite the franchise's first 8-8 season, they were a consensus pick to finish 4th in the AFC South again because the three other members of the division went to the playoffs and finished with a cumulative record of 34-14 the year before. This was fair since the Texans ended up with another 8-8 record after beginning the season 0-4. Three of the losses came with Schaub starting, including an overtime loss to Jacksonville where he completed 29 of his 40 passes for 307 yards and 3 TDs. The fourth lost is one of the most famous losses in Texans history. It can be described in one word: Rosencopter.
Sage Rosenfels started in place for an ill Matt Schaub, and he maneuvered the Texans to a 27-10 lead with 8:22 remaining. On the Colts' next possession Peyton Manning drove the offense 81 yards down the field in 4:14 and capped the drive off when Manning hit Tom Santi on 4th and 6 to make the game 27-17. The Texans than recovered the onside kick. On third down and eight, Rosenfels ran six yards and leaped in the air for the first. His body ping-ponged against the lashes of Raheem Brock and Marlin Jackson like a pinball against the bumpers. The football escaped from his hands. Gary Brackett hopped on the ball and took it 68 yards to make it 27-24. Once the Texans got the ball back, Rosenfels fumbled again after being strip-sacked by Robert Mathis. Peyton threw another touchdown and the Colts took a 31-27 lead they would hold on to. The crowd was flabbergasted. A win over the Colts could have led to Kubiak doubting Schaub's ability and possibly could have resulted in the Texans starting Sage Rosenfels, like Albert Haynesworth recommended, in an attempt to save the season. Instead, Sage fumbled it away in one of many traumatic experiences involving #18. Schaub's job was safe. He would start the following week against Miami.
The turnovers bled from the Indy game into the contest against Miami. After Houston's last last three possessions resulted in turnovers against Indy, their first two against Miami ended with Matt Schaub interceptions. After the first, Texans' fans booed. After the second, Texans fans cheered, "WE WANT SAGE!". Texans fans are not the best evaluators of quarterback talent. Matt responded by throwing for 344 yards and won the game with a buzzer -beating QB draw (3).
"That's part of being a quarterback," coach Gary Kubiak said. "You get your butt booed in the first quarter and you come back and win the game in the fourth."
The rest of the season was much like 2007. Schaub would play fairly well when he was healthy, but he missed the second half against the Vikings with a knee injury that kept him from playing in Weeks 9-13. Rosenfels would be adequate as a fill-in but nothing more than a back-up.
When Schaub came back, he took the field with a vengeance. The Texans proceeded to win three of their next four games, the most miraculous coming in Wisconsin against the Green Bay Packers (4). In his first game back from a knee injury and playing in 3 degree arctic weather, Schaub threw for 408 yards on 42 attempts. He led the Texans down the field with 1:49 left to put Kris Brown in field goal range. Unlike the following season, Brown scorched the game-winning field goal to make the game 24-21. During this four game stretch, Schaub threw for 1,281 yards, 5 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, a completion percentage of 63.4%, and a quarterback rating of 95.2. This four game stretch finally made Schaub seem like he could be the franchise quarterback he was acquired to be.
It was a season filled with mediocrity, up and down swings (5) and the creation of my favorite fantasy football team name of all time, "8-8 For Life." That name carried me through high school and the first two years of college. Despite this, it was the first time the Texans' offense exhibited long term stretches of competency with Schaub starting at quarterback. We saw more of the patented play-action game and zone run scheme used by Steve Slaton (and later, Arian Foster). The team improved, but they needed the defense too as well. The Texans also needed Schaub to play a full season for something greater than 8-8 to occur.
Schaub's best game: a 24-21 Week 14 win over Green Bay: 28/42 (66.67%) 414 yards, 2 TDs 1 INT, 104.7 Rating
NFL Game Rewind Must See: Unavailable
Check back tomorrow for Part II.
(1): This was my biggest fear with Case Keenum as a starting quarterback. He would have an incredible run in a small sample size, the Texans would opt to not take a QB in this year's draft, and he'd follow up a stellar 2013 with an atrocious season. See Matt Cassell, Damon Huard, and most likely, Josh McCown.
(2) Sorry for the GIF's quality. Anything you download from iTunes is impossible to record and make GIFs with. I had to record the video with my iPhone, upload it to YouTube, and then turn it into a GIF. Hooray, technology.
(3) This also my first memory of Matt Schaub.
(4) Sadly, I was unable to find video for anything before 2009. The only way would be to find torrents or buy season pass highlights from iTunes for $25 a season, which is ridiculous. If the WWE can provide a service filled with classic matches, the NFL should at least have highlights like this available. I would even pay an extra $10 a year on top of my Game Rewind if this was included with it. Instead, we have to argue over goal-post dunks, 18 game schedules, and expanding the playoffs.
(5) The first twelve games were bipolar. Houston lost four, won three, lost three, and then won five of their last six to put the team back at .500.