received an unexpected vote of confidence on Sunday. (Patric Schneider/AP)
Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum wasn't playing badly in his team's game against the Oakland Raiders. Through the waning moments of the third quarter, Keenum had completed 13-of-24 passes for 170 yards, one touchdown and one interception. And the touchdown, a 42-yarder from Keenum to tight end Garrett Graham, may have been the most impressive scoring play of Houston's season. Keenum ran to his right, escaping the clutches of Raiders defensive end LaMarr Houston and throwing to Graham, who had beaten Charles Woodson downfield.
However, Raiders rookie quarterback Matt McGloin was tearing up Houston's defense, throwing three touchdown passes through three quarters in his first NFL start. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, working from the coach's box two weeks after he suffered a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), or "mini-stroke," made the decision with 2:26 left in the third quarter to bring in former starter and current backup Matt Schaub to try to engineer more productivity. This after the Texans opened up the second half with three straight three-and-outs. All indications are that there was no injury forcing Kubiak's hand -- this was a coach's decision based on performance.
“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 after the game. "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, of course, was replaced in mid-October after setting an NFL record with four straight games in which opposing defenses returned one of his interceptions for touchdowns. Schaub was also dealing with an ankle injury. Keenum had shown some spark, but Kubiak had said all along that the quarterback situation would be fluid throughout the season.
"I’m going to keep going week-to-week. Matt’s working really hard. I know what Matt wants back on the field. I think Case has played really well and done a lot of good things. He has made a lot of mistakes too that he’s got to correct. We’ve been in some close ball games with the ball in his hand at the end of the game and we’ve got to get over the hump there. I think we just keep going. I think he [Keenum] needs a little pressure on him to continue to have to play well and stay in there. I’m not going to give anybody anything, much less a quarterback.”
The Texans had to punt on Schaub's first drive, but the second ended with a 26-yard field goal from Randy Bullock, reducing Oakland's lead to 28-20. The Raiders went on to win the game 28-23. Schaub completed 12 of 25 passes for 155 yards, no touchdowns, and no picks.
Near the end of the contest, Schaub and receiver Andre Johnson engaged in a verbal fracas after Schaub missed Johnson on a play with 1:15 left in the game that would have converted a 4th-and-7. In the sideline video, you can see Schaub telling Johnson not to stop on a route.
Kubiak downplayed the incident after the game. "I hope guys get mad when things aren't going well. They'll handle it. It's just frustrations."
“We just exchanged some words," Johnson said. "It’s just the heat of the moment; once we got in the locker room we talked about it. I’m not worried about it; me and Matt have played a lot of football together. Things like that happen, I think there’s a lot of frustration going on, and I think it happened because of frustration.”
Asked his thought about the move from Keenum to Schaub, Johnson simply said, “That’s a coach’s decision. That’s what the coaches decide, so we’ve got to go with it.”