Whether you prefer "craptacular" or "disasterific," one has to invent words at this point to describe the Houston Texans' quarterback situation. Starter Matt Schaub had set an NFL record by throwing pick-sixes in four straight regular-season games until he suffered an ankle injury last Sunday against the St. Louis Rams ... at which point backup T.J. Yates came in and threw a 98-yard pick-six to Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree.
Now, with the Texans traveling to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs and its league-best defense, head coach Gary Kubiak has made another call -- it will not be Schaub or Yates against the Chiefs. It will instead be Case Keenum, the undrafted second-year player from the University of Houston. Keenum has been a bit of a Kubiak favorite since he hit his first training camp, but against a defense that put up nine sacks against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday, this is a tall order. Schaub will not play at all, and Yates will be the backup.
"I didn't hesitate, because I felt we needed a spark," Kubiak said of his decision to start Keenum over Yates.
Keenum had better do more that bring a spark -- he'll have to start a bonfire to contend with Bob Sutton's multiple and aggressive defense. It's not just that Schaub and Yates haven't played well -- it's also an issue for any Houston quarterback that the offensive line has not protected well and the run game has not been consistent.
On Wednesday, Kubiak said that Keenum and Yates had split reps in practice, and the decision might come down to the wire. Apparently not.
“It’s really cool," Keenum said this week. "It’s not something I’ve thought about too much, but as far as actually right now in this moment, it’s something that I’ve thought about for a long time, playing quarterback in the NFL and being able to start for a team. In that sense, it’s a dream I’ve had for a really long time. I haven’t just worked this week. This isn’t the only week that I’ve worked. I’ve worked my whole life. I’m going to go out and get as much prepared as I can this week and go out and do the best I can on Sunday.”
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Keenum was the latest in a long line of Houston quarterbacks to light up the scoreboard at the collegiate level, amassing 19,217 passing yards, 155 touchdowns and 46 interceptions in five seasons. He finished his college career as the NCAA's all-time leader in total offense, passing yards, touchdowns and completions.
And though the track record isn't that great for Houston quarterbacks when they hit the NFL -- Andre Ware and David Klingler lead a less-than-illustrious list -- Keenum did impress in the 2013 preseason, completing 43 passes in 63 attempts for 482 yards, three touchdowns and (perhaps most importantly for this team) no interceptions.
That said, he's never thrown a pass in the NFL regular season, and he hasn't thrown a real meaningful pass since the Cougars beat Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl on Jan. 2, 2012.
“He has the gym rat type of gene, I guess," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said of Keenum on Wednesday. "He’s one of those guys that scrambles and does a lot of great things without the ball, with the ball. He understands the game and works very, very hard at it. He’s got a good arm and is very athletic. You could say the same things for T.J. We’ll make the right decision for our club.”
You could say that given the options, there is no right decision against this defense, but the Texans will throw their second-year man out there and see where it goes.
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