Schaub Remains the Wrong Choice, Even If His Numbers Are More Respectable
On the surface, Sunday was a step forward for Matt Schaub, the Texans' embattled starting quarterback. Before leaving with a leg injury, Schaub completed 15 of 21 passes for 186 yards, posting a strong QB rating of 98.5 and a solid yards-per-attempt (YPA) mark of 8.9.
Photo by Groovehouse Gary Kubiak and the Texans are still searching for answers with the 2013 season quickly slipping away.
Respectable, right? Sure. And definitely better than T.J. Yates, who finally got his chance after the injury and made the worst of it, throwing two interceptions (including a pick six!), routinely checking down (YPA of 5.8) and finishing with an awful QB rating of 45.3.
Perhaps a healthy Schaub gives them the best chance to compete on Sunday in Kansas City. Unfortunately, the objective for the Texans isn't to merely compete. It's to contend for a Super Bowl, and the best route for this team to get there as soon as possible still involves a change at the most important position.
Schaub's hollow numbers
Yes, his statistics looked fine from a superficial standpoint. But ultimately, they still did not lead to any kind of meaningful result for the team (six points, no touchdowns).
Arian Foster (20 carries, 141 yards) gashed the Rams on Sunday, especially in the first half (10 rushes, 98 yards). That success came when the Texans' offensive line opened up massive holes early in the game, which in turn helped resurrect Gary Kubiak's famed play-action passing system. Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins each found enormous openings against the Rams' zone coverage, giving Schaub easy throws that were wide open and off his primary read. That helped the Texans move the ball with ease between the 20s.
The passing-game woes, however, returned whenever the Texans found themselves with a shortened field. Ignoring the drive that ended with a Hopkins fumble, the Texans had two chances inside the St. Louis 20-yard line in the first half. Both ended with field goals.
On the first of those two chances, the Texans opted to run the ball on 2nd-and-goal from the 5-yard line before Schaub settled for a throw short of the end zone on 3rd-and-goal from the 9-yard line. It looked as if the Texans were simply content to get points and avoid making a debilitating mistake. The second-down call was conservative and the third-down call involved at least two options that had no realistic shot at scoring. That said, a false start on Derek Newton (more on him in a bit) moved back the third-down try by five yards, so not everything traced back to Schaub.
The second series, however, was more egregious. On first down from the St. Louis 19, Schaub took a sack instead of attempting to throw the ball away. On second down, he prematurely checked down to a tightly covered Foster for five yards. On third down, he forced a throw to blanketed Hopkins in the end zone, completely missing the uncovered Foster in the flat, who yelled and waved his hands.
When the primary option was taken away, Schaub was ineffective. His ability to scan the field and make off-script plays was virtually nonexistent. Jayson Braddock, an NFL scout and writer for RotoExperts, said it best:
There is exactly 0.00 anticipation on Matt Schaub's passes. I don't care who the QB is, but Schaub is broken.— Jayson Braddock (@JaysonBraddock) October 13, 2013
Things only got worse in the second half (before the injury). The Texans quickly moved it to midfield after a poor St. Louis kickoff, but on 3rd-and-10 from the 50, Schaub dropped back, faced no immediate pressure and hit Garrett Graham over the middle. Problem was, Graham was at least five yards short of the marker. He was immediately tackled, the Texans punted back to the Rams and the game was effectively over.
It wasn't a matter of the play call. Andre Johnson was running a downfield route and created separation. It wasn't a matter of pressure from the defense. It was simply more of the same from a shell-shocked Schaub -- a reluctance to take any risk and instead focus only on the most basic and primary of reads, first-down marker be damned.
As Braddock said, Schaub is broken. Sure, his QB rating was respectable and the Texans moved the ball well. But even David Carr posted a decent QB rating of 82 in his final year with the Texans. He wasn't awful, statistically. The issue was that his numbers were misleading. When it came time to actually make plays, he was too scared.
Yes, on Sunday, Yates relieved Schaub and ultimately performed even worse. But a big part of that, as Yates himself said after the game, was that the Rams knew that almost every play had to be a pass. Trailing 31-6, the threat of running becomes irrelevant. If Schaub were in that situation, it's hard to imagine his results being much better.