Can You Play Football?
The Texans welcomed the Oakland Raiders into Reliant Stadium for a head to head throw down of many times beaten teams. Hurts my heart to say that about my beloved Kirby-ites. This game took me back to the last time these two teams went at it in 2011. It was a close contest that was decided by a dramatic second & goal Michael Huff end zone interception of Matt Schaub in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Although many commentators and frustrated fans chose to pile on Jacoby Jones, the intended target, for not making a better effort to catch the last second heave I saw it differently. What I saw was a quarterback that couldn’t make a football play.
Many people fired shots at Schaub for not running the ball since he was so close to the end zone and only had one man to beat. Once I took a good look at the play I understood why he didn’t tuck and run. He can’t! Schaub plays the way that he plays because he knows his physical limitations. He, on the other hand, doesn’t know his mental limitations. Football is just as much mental as it is physical. There are many top flight athletes that are working at the car wash because they just don’t have what it takes between the ears to play at the highest level where coordinators get payed BIG bucks to scheme the mental aspects of the game.
Schaub couldn’t make the mental play or the physical one in that particular situation. Anybody that has ever played basketball knows that if you want to make an entry pass into the post to your big man and he’s being fronted by a defender, you throw the ball higher than the defender can jump and your guy has a better shot of catching it on the way down. Schaub threw a straight line pass at Huff giving Jones no chance at making a play. The Jacoby bashers just wanted something to get on his ass about in my book on that play, but it goes against the laws of physics for an individual to be able to run one way, jump, change direction in mid-air, and then stretch his body over a defender who has the ball thrown(rather softly) directly to him. Unless your name is Mr. Fantastic, I don’t see anybody, let alone a third receiver, making that play.
The point that I’m making is that Matt Schaub has not shown that he has the physical or mental tools to make a football play in big moments. I know that this is not a grand unveiling of facts, but walk with for a minute. It seems to me that the game speeds up for him when the intensity of the moment increases. He made the right decision to throw it to Jones, but he rushed the throw when he saw the linebacker about to bust him up. From my couch it looked like he had enough time to make a better throw before the linebacker got to him, but his instincts told him to just get the ball out of his hands. I heard many takes about how Schaub needs to learn how to scramble. That doesn’t make any sense to me. You can improve foot mechanics in the pocket, but quickness and speed are not learned behaviors. An athlete can improve them if he or she already has the ability naturally, but “if you ain’t got, You ain’t got it!” What Schaub needed in that moment was a cooler head. If he had not rushed the ball out of his hands, then he would have made a better entry pass to Jones and gave him an opportunity to get a goal post dunk.
Back to this season, or better yet this years Raiders v Texans game. Keenum got the start and Schaub got the finish. Why Keenum is on such a short leash is another article within itself. I just want to touch on the contrast between the two Texans Qbs that came to me as the game unfolded. Actually I’ve been ranting about this to anyone that would give me an ear and an hour, but this game put it in perspective for me since they both saw some action.
Case has repeatedly been called a system quarterback, but I don’t see it that way. My definition of a system quarterback is one that can’t survive outside of the system. I don’t mean one particular system, but any system in general. If Matt Schaub goes to another team next season and learns that system, I believe that he can competently navigate it as long as it’s not interrupted and it fits his physical abilities. His problem is, and always has been, that once the system is interrupted by a human bulldozer that has a dead aim on his jersey number, he panics or succumbs to his physical limitations. Life in the NFL does not allow a QB to just stand in an undisturbed tranquil pocket all night and meditate on his progressions. There are finely tuned athletes on the opposing team that are paid rather handsomely to take the QB, and coordinator, out of their comfort zones.
Matt Schaub is the ultimate system quarterback, or rhythm passer as they like to call him, in my opinion. He has proven over and over again that he does not have the physical, or mental, ability to make a football play outside of the system when it breaks down. When he came in for Case I was not surprised that he moved the chains between the 20s and left the field with three points instead of six. That’s what he does. That’s who he is. Kubiak’s system seems to require space and for most of the field Schaub pads his stats. The field shortens and becomes more dense once the defense has the end zone at their heels when the ball is snapped. That’s around the time that most systems are challenged and offensive players just have to make plays. They have to be able to play football!
This takes me back to my youth when we would get off the school bus, grab a snack, and run to the field that we turned into our stadium for the day. Most of us didn’t play Pop Warner so we really didn’t have a grasp on the mental aspect of the game. We just played. Some of us just had the knack to make a move that would stir up an OOOOOOHHHHH moment. You know when you see somebody get shaken out of their converse when they go to make a tackle and end up tackling the invisible man? Those moments. Some of us just had flat out speed. I personally learned how to play a Randall Cunningham style of QB out there on those fields. Drop back, look for the open man and let it fly. If nobody was open, then turn on the jets get to the end zone for seven. We didn’t kick field goals, so every score was seven.
I never learned progressions or coverages out there. I just knew how to make plays. When I made it to high school that ability to make plays landed me the starting quarterback spot ahead of guys that played the position since little league. Most coaches didn’t care if guys like myself could read safety tendencies or not. They just wanted us to do what we did naturally, make plays. I have another article that needs to be written about that last point, but for time and relevance sake I’ll move on.
I don’t believe that Schaub would have flourished in our chaotic environment. Elway, Steve Young, and Tarkenton would have. Cam Newton, V Y, and Vick already have. I believe that the 3rd ward Cougar Case Keenum could have did the “The Thang” out there with us too. It was all about being a play maker. If anything, Case was yanked for not being enough of a system quarterback against the Raiders. According to Kubiak…
“What was happening was, we had to make a lot of changes from a protection standpoint to handle some of the things they were doing,” Kubiak said. “Trying to create some tempo and do that and it made it very tough on Case, in my opinion, being a young player. I knew that Matt could get done some of the things that I wanted to get done, real fast, and to give us a chance to win the football game. So that’s why I did it.”
Schaub can navigate the SS Kubaik in his sleep. He came right in and showed the youngster how to do it. Until…Dum Dum Dummmmmmm!!!! The dreaded red zone where you actually have to be a good “football player” in the NFL to get consistent 6s instead of the Texan 3 step aka a field goal.
Until the Texans get a Warren Moon, Young, Favre, or Elway that can operate systems at the highest level and still make plays when the defense actually does its job and disrupts things, maybe the Texans need to employ a two QB rotation. Let Schaub play until he get’s the team to the red zone and then bring in Keenum to finish the job since #8 and #80 can’t get on the same page in the end zone. I’m joking of course, but Case still has some growing to do in this system before he can really shine and pull off some W’s. Unfortunately Schaub will never be a big play maker because he doesn’t have the ability to be one. He’s a good quarterback, but he’s not a good football player. He doesn’t have any sandlot in him or at least not enough.
Time to shut this thing down like Deon. Just because you know how to play football, doesn’t mean that you can play football especially in regards to the NFL. That’s why there are coaches and coordinators. Many of those guys, like Kubiak, are former NFL back-ups. Maybe Schaub has a future as an Offensive Coordinator in the NFL and maybe Case has a successful NFL future ahead of him. We shall see. Peace