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Who Was Better?

Comparing the peaks of Houston’s franchise quarterbacks.

The advantage of having a franchise quarterback at the helm cannot be understated. This team knows better than most what the woes, inconsistency, and toll a carousel can inflict on an organization. But when a team finds that rare guy who can lead the team for years, it elevates the entire franchise. The Texans have had there share of potential franchise quarterbacks, but have had to make major investments to acquire them.

  • David Carr was the first ever draft choice of the franchise and was supposed to be a building block for the team on day one.
  • The Texans traded for Matt Schaub who eventually elevated the franchise for seven years.
  • The Texans signed [NAME REDACTED] in a blockbuster move that squandered an entire season and one of the league’s best defenses.
  • In the 2017 draft, the Texans traded up to pick Deshaun Watson and expended a significant amount of draft capital to do so.

Now, the Texans are operating under the Watson era. Long may he reign. Though the Texans traded quite a lot for him, it’s safe to say the deal has certainly paid off.

Of the supposed franchise quarterbacks, Schaub and Watson boast the best numbers. Schaub turned the ship around, ushering in the Texans’ first era of winning seasons. Watson is the captain now with his sights set on a deep run in the playoffs.

Our recency bias suggests that every card-carrying Texans fan would choose Deshaun Watson over Matt Schaub in a head-to-head decision, but does that match what the stat sheet reveals? On paper, it may be closer than you think.

Yes, Watson can do things that Schaub couldn't dream about, just ask Tom Savage what he thinks about Watson’s abilities. However, Schaub over the span of four or five years was able to put up numbers through the air that Watson has yet to eclipse.

From 2009 - 2011, Matt Schaub played 42 games, threw 939 passes, 11,619 passing yards, 68 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. Deshaun Watson from 2017 - 2019 has played 37 games, threw 804 passes, 9,716 yards, 71 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions.

Watson’s biggest attribute that Schaub did not posses was his running abilitiy. In terms of rushing, Watson can boast 1,233 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns to his name, which makes this comparison a lot closer. Matt Schaub has exactly 100 rushing yards over this three year period.

If you look at wins and losses, Watson boasts a 24-13 (0.649) record while Matt Schaub only put together a 22-20 record (0.524). This unfortunately doesn't consider the 2012 season where Schaub went 12-4 and led the team to the AFC Divisional Round in the playoffs.

I really wish Next Gen Stats was available back when Schaub was tossing the rock in Liberty White, because we then could clearly compare their throwing capabilities with charts such as this. Here’s Watson’s 2019 season chart. His throwing to the right side is on par with some of the elites in the league, and overall, he had a strong performance compared to his peers.

In terms of accuracy, Watson slightly edges out Schaub with a 66.8% completion percentage compared to Schaub’s 64.8%

Schaub was clearly carrying a heavy load for the offense at this point in the franchise. Yes we are firmly in the Arian Foster era, but it’s hard to believe that Matt Schaub was averaging almost 35 pass attempts per game. He truly was a high-volume QB at the time and it’s debatable he carried the team on his shoulders more than Watson.

One interesting factoid in this discussion is that Watson has less interceptions than Schaub. We often discussed early in Watson’s career his issues with accuracy, and poor decisions, but it appears the young quarterback maybe less turnover prone than Schaub was during this span.

Watson certainly has the better arsenal of weapons to throw to, but Schaub’s offensive line is lightyears ahead of the Texans’ current front five.

Schaub’s iconic play action passes that looked like they were in slow motion may only be remembered in the lore of Houston Texans fans, but undeniably he oversaw the revitalization of football in Houston. Nothing was greater than the scores of #8 jerseys with duck tape slabbed on the back with the name “Schaub” written in black sharpie. Schaub to Andre Johnson wasn't just effective, it was beautiful to watch. Even though Schaub is still in the league parked behind Matt Ryan in Atlanta, those days feel like ancient history to Texans fans.

The one thing you cannot deny, and it surpasses all the stats, charts, and conjecture possible. It’s the dynamic play-making ability of Deshaun Watson. Molded by an innate talent and released regularly by an inept offensive line, Watson shines brightest when under the most heat. Not that Schaub didn't have his moments—remember his 2012 comeback victory against the Jags where he through for over 500 yards and 5 TDs? But Watson has engineered four to five historic, jaw dropping moments that overshadow an entire game with its grandeur. That my loyal reader is why I’d take Watson’s first three years over Schaub’s best three year stretch. Yes, neither quarterback has won more than one playoff game in this time span, but Watson has the drive, talent, and history to take the Texans further than they’ve gone before.

Do you think Schaub deserves more credit than he gets? What is Watson’s ceiling? Comment below!