Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub
For some time now, there has been a lot of debate about Houston Texans' quarterback Matt Schaub. As NFL fans, analysts and just as people in general, labelling people is seen as a necessity in identifying the capabilities of that person, whether it be playing football, teaching children or whatever walk of life a person chooses for themselves. For Matt Schaub, there are any number of labels that the masses are trying to stick to his helmet.
Schaub has been the starting quarterback for the Houston Texans since 2007, after a trade involving his former team the Atlanta Falcons. The 31-year-old has started every single game he has been healthy for since joining Gary Kubiak's side and in the process accumulated some lofty numbers. His best season came back in 2009, when he finished the year with a 67.9 completion percentage, 4,770 passing yards, 29 touchdowns to 15 interceptions(17 total turnovers) and 57 yards rushing.
That was Schaub's third season as a starter, in which he earned a reputation as one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Being that he had missed time during his first two seasons, and it typically takes a quarterback three years to adjust to being a starter at this level, Schaub was expected to help the Texans reached the promised land, which was then the playoffs. Schaub did help the Texans make the playoffs in 2011 for the first time in the franchise's short history, but he didn't get to actually play in the post-season after being injured in the regular season.
Without Schaub, the Texans still found their way to the divisional round of the playoffs. With TJ Yates under center, they lost and Texans fans could only consider what could have happened had Schaub been healthy. This season affords them the opportunity to remove any doubts. To finally answer that lingering question from last season. To see if Matt Schaub truly deserves the label of an elite quarterback, or if he is just another of those trapped in the very good or good categories.
With success comes a reputation. With a reputation comes an audience. With an audience comes scrutiny. After the Texans' playoff run last season, and a fast start to this year's regular season, the greater NFL audience began to stand up and take more notice of the Texans in greater detail. Schaub didn't exactly disappoint in the regular season, he started all 16 games and finished the year with a respectable 64.3 completion percentage, 4,008 yards, 22 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. However, pockets of onlookers began to notice that the Texans ran a very rigid system that didn't put a huge amount of pressure on Schaub to consistently make downfield throws under pressure or to carry that much of the offensive responsibility.
Questions arose about whether Schaub was a product of a system or a true game-changing player. Labels such as those are completely irrelevant, until the playoffs. In the playoffs, the team without a game-changer at the quarterback position is often found out. It's difficult to find a path through the playoffs that doesn't force you to face one of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or even a Matt Ryan. Against those quarterbacks you are at an immediate disadvantage if your quarterback isn't a game-changer, an elite passer who can carry the offense for long stretches.
The 2012 Houston Texans avoided any of those players in the first round, instead sweeping past the decidedly average Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals. Alas, their trip into the post-season wouldn't last long before encountering one of those fearsome quarterbacks, maybe even the most fierce of them all, Tom Brady.
Brady and the New England Patriots dismantled the Texans with ease in the regular season. Schaub had one of his worst games of the season as he completed 19 of 32 passes, but only totaled 232 yards and finished the game with one interception and one fumble, which the Texans recovered. Most importantly however, Schaub wasn't able to keep the Texans competitive early on when the Patriots' offense was on top. The Texans are run reliant on offense, and proved incapable of working a plan B with Schaub on that day.
Schaub doesn't have the best receiving corps in the NFL, but he does have enough talent to pick apart a questionable Patriots' pass defense. Andre Johnson is still one of the best receivers in the NFL, Kevin Walter is servicable, Owen Daniels, Ben Tate and Arian Foster are all excellent receivers playing other positions, while Lestar Jean, Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey are all very talented but raw receivers waiting to break free. The Patriots have proved all season long that they can stop opposition running-backs, but they do still have a leaky secondary that lives off of turnovers and key stops on third down. If Schaub is daring enough, and talented enough, then he should be able to put up big numbers on the Patriots' defense.
But the issue remains whether he is in fact talented enough to make those plays. Right now Schaub's legacy hangs in the balance. Is he a productive quarterback who was able to rack up regular season victories on the back of his teammates' dominant displays, or was he able to turn it on in the big games to produce when it really mattered and guide his franchise further than it had ever been?
At this point in his career, Schaub has earned all the money he will need. He has achieved everything he will have wanted to achieve, except for cementing his legacy with post-season celebrations. Against the New England Patriots this weekend, he will have one, maybe final, say in how NFL fans will label his career on the whole.