Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: Houston Texans

The good news? My class got canceled this morning. The bad news? I found out after I'd already gotten out of bed early and gone to the classroom and was sitting there for 15 minutes, so I didn't even get to sleep in. What did I do instead? Tooled around, ran errands, forgot to fax important papers, and wrote the first page of an essay. What does this have to do with the Houston Texans? Absolutely zippo.

Houston Texans (8-8): Matt Schaub/Sage Rosenfels

The Texans, aside from having an unimaginative name (Houston Steers? Houston Hurricanes? Houston Republicans? C'mon, there's got to be something) are the baby of the NFL; founded in 2002, they've only had three starting quarterbacks, two if you count Rosenfels as the backup taking over when Schaub got injured. David Carr was the quarterback for five seasons, but he was eventually traded to the Panthers, tried to fill Delhomme's absence, and generally failed. The Texans' baby steps were difficult too -- they have gone 4-12, 5-11, 7-9, 2-14, 6-10, and this year, made it all the way to .500 at 8-8. Next step: Have a winning season. The responsibility for this task falls on Schaub, and Rosenfels if Schaub gets injured again. In a tough AFC South, the Texans' main accomplishment thus far has been stealing offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak from the Broncos to be their head coach. (The Broncos have not been the same since, as I get this feeling that Shanny has decided to do all the playcalling himself-- favorite being: "Give it to the little guys and run smack up the middle into all those big guys." I also think that Shanny forgets he has a quarterback that can execute the passing section of the playbook, as he was so used to Jake Plummer routinely becoming a soggy pile of fail. But this is the Texans quiz, not the Broncos).

Matt Schaub, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, got started at East High School in West Chester and, like several other quarterbacks we've examined, played basketball and baseball in addition to football. He was captain of the football team, All-County, and All-State, in baseball he was All-Area and Chestermont League Sophomore of the Year, and in basketball, he was Top 5 on the scoring list. In other words, a quintessential jock who was probably extremely popular with his classmates and less so with teachers. (I have no evidence to back up that assertion). He chose to attend the University of Virginia, where he set Cavalier records for starts at quarterback (40) completion percentage (66.9%) passing yards (7502) touchdown passes (56) and completions (716). For his efforts, he was named the 2002 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and his name even turned up as a candidate for the Heisman. For the first half of his college career, he ran an effective two-quarterback system, switching off with Bryson Spinner, which prevented undue wear and tear on both of them. But Spinner transferred to the University of Richmond, which left Schaub in full command of the signal-calling duties. A shoulder injury derailed his senior season, but he still finished with 2,952 yards, 18 TD, and 10 INT that year.

Schaub was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round of the 2004 draft, 90th overall, where he saw limited time, averaging 52 attempts a year in 38 games, but only 2 starts. (He did, however, play in all 16 games in both 2005 and 2006, seeing a lot more time than your average backup... but then again, it was Michael Vick in front of him. He's an unstable fellow). Schaub was traded for draft picks to the Texans, which considering the fact that the Falcons immediately afterwards found themselves in something of a quarterback pickle, was another suspect move on the part of a quarterback-challenged team (they, if you'll recall, also ran Brett Favre out of town, but I suppose that's a case of 20/20 hindsight). But Schaub got off to a good start in Houston, winning each of his first two starts (against the Chiefs and the Panthers) completing over 70% of his passes in each game and attaining a quarterback rating over 100. He ended up starting 11 games, with 9 TDs, 9 INT, 2,241 yards, and a 87.2 rating, before being knocked out December 2 against the Titans with a separated shoulder. This opened the door for Rosenfels.

Rosenfels, born in Maquoketa, Iowa, decided to do his future fellow quarterback one better -- he lettered in football, basketball, baseball, tennis, and track at Maquoketa High School, making All-State in the former three. One wonders how he had time to do anything else with all those sports he was playing, but he enrolled at Iowa State, majored in marketing, and was a four-year starter for the Cyclones in the Big 12 Conference. He finished with 4,164 total yards, 19 TD and 26 INT, and 3o6 completions on 587 attempts (52.1%), in addition to showing an ability to move the chains on the ground -- he had 660 rush yards and 14 rush TDs on 164 carries, 10 of those coming his senior year. These numbers, although modest, were enough to warrant a fourth-round, 109th-overall pick by the Redskins in 2001, but he saw no playing time in the one season he spent with Washington, as he was third on the depth chart. He moved to the Dolphins the next year and played in four games (no starts) finishing with zero completions on three attempts. He didn't get a start until 2004, one of three games he played in with Miami again, but when he became an unrestricted free agent after the 2005 season, he signed with the Texans.

His first season in Houston red went well, as he completed 27 of 39 passes (69.2%) for 3 TD and 1 INT, playing in four games but starting none of them. His opportunity to start more than one game in a season finally came with Schaub's injury in Week 13, so he took over in Week 14 against the Buccaneers and won, 38-14. (He also beat the Broncos in Week 15, 31-13, but I prefer not to think about that. Firstly, it was due to the fact that the Broncos' O-line, as has been proved by filmed evidence, did not even give Cutler 4 seconds to throw before Mario Williams and the rest of the Houston defense was allowed to bust through and sit on his head. This was not due to anything Rosenfels did, unless he spiked the Broncos' Gatorade with Ambien). Still, he finished 4-1 as a starter against Schaub' s 4-7, and the one loss came to the Colts. Then again, beating the Raiders, Buccaneers, and Broncos isn't terribly difficult, but he did however help the Texans shellack the playoff-bound Jaguars 42-28 in Week 17 -- even though Quinn Gray, starting for the Jags in place of Garrard, threw 4 touchdown passes.

The Texans defense, led by sack machine Williams, isn't as formidable as you'd think from watching that Broncos game. They allowed an average of 24 points a game (22nd in the NFL) 344.2 yards a game (24th) 230.1 passing yards a game (25th) and 114.1 rush yards a game (19th). Their offense was somewhat better, averaging 23.7 points a game (12th) 333.6 total yards (14th) 234.4 pass yards (11th) and 99.1 rush yards (22nd). For a team still in diapers and one that's never had much success, they still need a leader and a star performer. Schaub might eventually fit the bill, or he might not -- first he needs to stay healthy in his second year with the team and hope Kubiak keeps working his wizardry. (And we let him go. Thanks billions, Shanahan). The Texans may not get to their first-ever winning season next year, but they seem content with their QBing options for now.

And with that, I finish my 20th Quarterback Quiz and the AFC South -- only the NFC South and A/NFC Wests to go, 12 more teams in all. I'll probably post some stuff about the NFL Combine, now taking place in Indianapolis, and after that, go back to the Quizzes. In the meantime, I am still warming up for baseball blogging by reading, surprise, loads of baseball blogs. My current site of choice is It Is High, It Is Far, It is... Caught. Although this blog is run by (gasp!) diehard Yankees fans, it is also Yankees fans with the rare ability to make fun of themselves and who hate the Red Sox just as much as I do. Plus, it's hysterical.

Happy Vince Young Day, everyone!

1 comment:

Wailin' Suzyn said...

Hey Hilary!

Thanks for the shout-out for "It is high, it is far, it is ... caught."

So you know, we're not all Yankee fans. I'm a Twins guy through and through. I tolerate the Yankee nuts and they tolerate me playing the sandbox.

Thanks again,

Wailin' Suzyn