Matt Schaub

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The last time the Houston Texans lost four games in a row, Glover Quin was assisting game-winning Hail Marys and Mark Sanchez was a comeback machine.

The year 2010 provided the highest expectations in franchise history, at the time. It was supposed to be the year the Texans broke out from destructive patterns of hardship and heartbreak. It was their year. 

But the dreams of success ended faster than a Yellowstone trip in the middle of a government shutdown. 

Sounds a lot like 2013.

Both of these mid-season crises have issues that are polar opposites.

In 2010, there was no quarterback controversy. Matt Schaub was the man, as a defending Pro Bowl MVP that gave David Carr amnesia, and a clutch quarterback that hit Andre Johnson for two last-minute touchdowns against Washington  and Kansas City. 

Three seasons ago, there was no cry for Kubiak’s head. His offense ranked third in the league and aided an even turnover margin.

Former defensive coordinator Frank Bush was the goat. The third-worst defense in the league gave up so many yards through the air that opposing quarterbacks may have been able to transfer their statistics for double the miles on the plane ride home.

Three years later, a once-atrocious defense turned world-beaters overnight under Wade Phillips, currently rank first in the league in total defense.

The offense has a Schaublem in Matt, who threw pick-sixes in four straight games. And not the 2010 kind, after he would lead Houston to an overtime-forcing comeback against Baltimore.

Kubiak’s autograph now sells for $2.25 and his offense has become dangerously predictable, to the point that the pick-six disease has trickled down to backup T.J. Yates.

Defenders are waiting on interceptions like clocks wait for alarms.

Well, what’s the solution?

It’s not the player personnel: Despite the interceptions, Schaub ranks in the top 13 in passing yards and touchdowns. Arian Foster leads a sixth-ranked rushing offense with the second most yards in the league.

It’s not the competition: If facing three Super Bowl contenders was the issue, then Houston would not have been shellacked by a 2-3 St. Louis team that had squeaked by an 0-4 Jacksonville team the week before.

Then what is it?

At the end of the 2010 season, the organization replaced Bush with Wade Philips, drafted J.J. Watt, picked up some other key pieces in the free agency and clinched its first playoff berth the following season.

Here in 2013, the offense has all the key pieces already. It just needs the replacement.

Kubiak has been the play-caller behind an offense that has finished in the top 10 in the NFL four out of the last five years. If the offense does not improve, the team will not improve. The offense is the problem.

This issue falls under Kubiak’s responsibility, and if he cannot fix it quickly, then like Bush, he will have to be replaced in order for Houston to move forward.

If you had walked up to Matt Schaub 10 years ago — while he was still warming Michael Vick’s seat in Atlanta — and told him that in a decade he would be a record-setting quarterback, a smile might have eclipsed his normally impassive face.

But smiles were absent on the Texans' sideline after the starting quarterback threw a pick-six on his first pass against San Francisco on Sunday night, immortalizing him as the only NFL quarterback with four pick-sixes in four consecutive games in league history. 

As the coup against Schaub was assembled by the Houston fan base and media, head coach Gary Kubiak said in a press conference Monday that he will not give up on his quarterback yet.

“You watch the struggle and you just want to be a part of the solution,” Kubiak said. “You want to be a part of helping him work his way through that. The only way I know how to do that is to play your way through that stuff.”

Schaub has played his way through a lot in his seven-year career with the Texans, missing the franchise’s inaugural playoff game with a Lisfranc injury, then returning the next year and throwing a costly interception in a 41-28 loss to New England in the playoffs.

Some of Schaub’s best moments have come at the beginning of seasons. In 2012, Schaub put up 1162 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions through the first five games. In 2011, he put up 1377 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions.

Schaub has thrown for more interceptions this season than in both of those years combined. 

His numbers are bad, but the competition has improved.

Only three teams from the Texans’ early slate of games in 2011 or 2012 made the playoffs. It is likely three from the current slate will make the postseason.

And before Texans tailgaters start throwing Schaub posters on the barbecue pyre, they should realize the replacements are not going to make any dramatic improvements:

- T.J. Yates and local favorite Case Keenum would be starting next week if Kubiak had any indication they would give the team a better chance at winning.

- The best free agents currently in the market are Matt Flynn, who has been beaten out for the starting job twice this season on two separate teams, and David Carr. Texans fans would love that.

- Any trade for a suitable quarterback would take away talent in other aspects of the team, leaving it shorthanded at other positions.

Kubiak is right.

The only immediate way out of the Schaublem is to let Schaub play his way out of it.

With a St. Louis defense that has given up 256 passing yards per game this season, and more importantly, forced three interceptions all year, Schaub might just get the therapeutic game he needs.

Houston Texans NFL Draft analysis: Was WR DeAndre Hopkins the right pick at No. 27?

First Round: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

In last week’s blog I made a case for Terrance Williams as a better candidate for the wide receiver role in Houston than Hopkins. It was a minority opinion, but I still stand by it. However, that does not mean Hopkins was a bad selection. Hopkins was a great selection.

The Texans needed a wide receiver to fill the role left open by the release of Kevin Walter, and DeAndre Hopkins should be able to exceed it. As one of the most dynamic receivers from the ACC, Hopkins will be expected to become the complimentary threat to Andre Johnson that Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey have so far failed to become.

If Hopkins can fulfill those expectations, the Houston Texans will have their most effective wide receiver core in their short history. Keshawn Martin would be dedicated primarily as a third/slot receiver; and if Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels can remain healthy, Matt Schaub will have plenty of options.

Second Round: D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina

It would have been a wasted opportunity if Houston did not draft a safety to back up Ed Reed. Not only did they need depth at the position, but a team does not always have a future hall of famer on their roster to mentor those at his position. Houston took the opportunity by drafting Swearinger.

I don’t know what it is about Houston and drafting defensive backs from South Carolina (Dunta Robinson, Fred Bennett), but it has worked out so far. With two interceptions in the 2012 season, including a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown against Arkansas, Swearinger has playmaking ability. Known for his physical play, that should help him translate into Wade Phillips’ man coverage defensive schemes.

Swearinger probably won’t show up on the starting depth chart for a few seasons, but he could become an impactful nickelback in the meantime.

Third Round: Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina / Sam Montgomery, OLB, LSU

The Texans offensive line was both outstanding and struggling. The whole left side of the line was elected to the Pro Bowl. The right side struggled for consistency with the injury of right tackle Derek Newton and the shuffle at right guard between Ben Jones and Antoine Caldwell.

Brennan Williams will be expected to strengthen that right side, providing Schaub more consistent protection and less reliance to run to the left side of the ball.

With the injury to Brian Cushing last season, the Texans found they needed some depth. By selecting Montgomery (and even Trevardo Williams in the fourth round) the Texans now have an option of moving Brooks Reed to the inside. Montgomery will have a similar role to Whitney Mercilus’ last season. But in the future, if Montgomery can fulfill expectations, he will be able to take over Reed’s position and allow the move.

Fourth-Sixth Rounds: Trevardo Williams, DE, UConn / David Quessenberry, OT, San Jose State / Alan Bonner, WR, Jax State / Christopher Jones, DT, Bowling Green / Ryan Griffin, TE, UConn

Trough the rest of the draft, the Texans reiterated their needs at wide receiver, offensive line and outside linebacker. But with the selection of Christopher Jones, Houston also gave some support to the nose tackle position.

Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell have played adequate roles in the line’s center. NFL teams do not strive for adequacy. Since it was not a large issue, a nose tackle was not selected in the earlier rounds. As MAC Defensive Player of the Year with 12.5 sacks last season, Jones just may be a steal for the Texans.

Fantasy Football: Two first round draft picks that will become immediate fantasy stars in 2013

The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft was about as unpredictable as most people expected it to be. There was only one quarterback selected, three wide receivers selected and for the first time in over 50 years there was not a single running back drafted in the first round.  

Even with a clear lack of top-notch talent at the offensive skill positions I still believe that there are a few first round picks from this year’s draft that will blossom into quality NFL players and great fantasy football prospects as well. Here are two first round picks that I believe will become instant fantasy superstars this fall.

1. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans  

At 6-foot-1, 214 pounds, Hopkins is a very solid receiver. With the exception of star Andre Johnson the Texans are weak at the wide receiver position, so the addition of Hopkins will help take some of the pressure off of Johnson. Also, the respect and attention that Johnson receives from opposing defenses will play to the advantage of Hopkins because it will open up numerous holes in the secondary that he will definitely be able to capitalize on. While defenses game plan around Johnson look for Hopkins and quarterback Matt Schaub to connect early and often next season. I expect the rookie to put up a solid amount of receiving yards and with his great route running and fearless nature look for him to get numerous targets in the red zone ultimately allowing him to put up big fantasy numbers.

2.  Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams

Austin is by the far the best playmaker in this year’s draft class, and a playmaker is exactly what the Rams need right now. The Rams are not deep at all at the wide receiver position so look for Austin to jump right into the starting lineup. Because of his speed and quickness he is a deep threat at all times and opposing defenses will have to respect that. If defenses play back then he will be able to make plays underneath the coverage, and if they play press coverage he will be able to beat the defense deep down the field. In addition, Austin will be the first big time playmaker that quarterback Sam Bradford will have at wide receiver since he was drafted by the Rams in 2010, so look for Bradford to target him all year long as these two young guns look to connect for some big plays. Lastly, Austin is fast enough that the Rams could use him in a Wildcat style offense or as a kick returner and punt returner allowing him to rack up some extra fantasy points. Just remember, speed kills, and speed is Tavon Austin’s specialty. 

HOUSTON — David Carr was sacked an NFL record 76 times in 2002, the Houston Texans’ inaugural season. Three years later, he went down behind the line 68 times, third-most in league history.

The Texans would love to put that issue to rest — and they have made significant upgrades in virtually every area since Carr was cut in 2007 — but protecting the quarterback is unfortunately back in the conversation.

Matt Schaub has been sacked 11 times in three games, tied with Philadelphia’s Michael Vick for the most this season. Only the Eagles have allowed more sacks than Houston (14), and Vick became the starter after Kevin Kolb left the first game with a concussion.

“We’ve got 11 sacks, way too damn many,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “I don’t care whose fault it is — mine, Matt’s, the O-line. We’ve got to fix it. We’ve got way too many.”

The Texans (2-1) play at Oakland (1-2) this week. The Raiders rank second in total defense (260.7 yards per game) and have seven sacks in their first three games.

Kubiak doesn’t have a Vick as his No. 2 quarterback. He’s got Dan Orlovsky as the backup, but he may need to go to him if Schaub keeps getting hit like this.

He was sacked five times in the Texans 30-27 win over Washington two weeks ago, and took another hard shot after throwing a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Andre Johnson. Schaub was sacked four more times in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to Dallas, three times by DeMarcus Ware. Keith Brooking had the other one, charging in unblocked to hammer Schaub on a third-down play from the Cowboys’ 3-yard line.

“It’s frustrating as an offensive line,” center Chris Myers said. “You take pride in not having that many sacks and when you’re close to last in the league in giving up sacks, it’s really embarrassing. We’ve got to take it upon ourselves, take pride in that and get better.”

The offensive front faced Dallas without starting left tackle Duane Brown, who was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on banned substances. Five-year veteran Rashad Butler made his first career start in Brown’s place, and let Ware get by him on one of the sacks.

Right tackle Eric Winston isn’t making excuses. No matter who is starting, Winston said the line needs to hold up.

“It doesn’t matter if he holds it for 15 seconds back there if he wants,” Winston said. “We have to stay on them and somehow get them blocked and that’s just what we’re going to keep doing.”

Kubiak said the entire offense, not just the line, shares blame for the protection breakdowns. Schaub said he’s at fault for some of them, holding onto the ball longer than the blocking could last.

“There’s a few times where I could’ve thrown the ball away or gotten rid of it, just trying to extend plays,” Schaub said. “We’re getting it right, we’re going to be fine. It’s not a big deal. We’re going to get it right.”

Schaub was only sacked twice in Houston’s opening win against Indianapolis. But he only attempted 17 passes because the Texans ran so effectively, rushing 42 times for 257 yards.

Schaub has thrown 84 passes in two games since, and Johnson said Houston’s receivers must take pressure off Schaub by running sharper routes.
“We just have to try to work ourselves open a little but more quickly than we’ve been doing,” Johnson said. “You definitely don’t like to see him get hit. It pretty much takes a toll on the body.”

Schaub can attest to that. He missed five games in 2007 with a shoulder injury and concussion, and four more in 2008 with a knee injury. Schaub started all 16 games last season, and the Texans finished with the NFL’s top passing offense (291 yards per game).

“The thing we were able to do last year was keep him healthy,” Johnson said. “That’s something we’re going to have to continue to do. When he’s healthy, he goes out and plays great.”