The Texans’ playoff hopes were dealt another crushing blow on Sunday, but there may have been a silver lining in the loss.
With quarterback Matt Schaub unavailable with a foot injury on Sunday and backup T.J. Yates doing nothing to instill confidence in his abilities, the Texans turned to undrafted second-year quarterback Case Keenum to lead the offense. The situation wasn’t ideal by any standards, but the University of Houston standout didn’t disappoint.
Keenum made his regular-season debut on the road in a raucous Arrowhead Stadium against the NFL-best Kansas City Chiefs. He lost dynamic running back Arian Foster in the first half, was without reliable tight end Owen Daniels, who is on short-term injured reserve for a few more weeks, and had to deal with a defense that leads the NFL in sacks (35) and ranks third against the pass (194.7 yards per game). Yet, Keenum withstood the pressure — both figurative and literal — and actually impressed on the day.
Keenum was accurate, efficient and careful in his approach against the Chiefs. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 271 yards and a pretty touchdown pass to rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the loss. Keenum’s also broke the Texans’ quarterback’s pick-six streak — throwing at least one in five straight games entering Sunday, which might be his most notable feat. He did lose a fumble on a Tamba Hali sack late in the fourth quarter, so his stat sheet wasn’t spotless, but he also kept the Texans competitive and gave them a chance to win right up until the end.
The Chiefs ultimately pulled out the 17-16 win on the day, pushing them to a league-best 7-0 while pushing the Texans even farther down in the playoff picture. There is still a chance the Texans make the playoffs. There’s currently a logjam of 4-3 and 3-4 teams in the middle of the AFC standings, and the Texans have a bye week ahead to get healthy. But even with some hope left, the odds are not in their favor whatsoever. With that in mind, it might be time to look toward the future.
Schaub has done nothing this season, or in the playoffs either of the last two seasons, to prove that he can lead this team to a Super Bowl. He completes a high percentage of his passes (64 percent for his career), but he also turns the ball too much and doesn’t have the arm strength to command a vertical passing game. He’s also scheduled to cost Houston $14.5 million next season, which is a bit lofty for a guy that even head coach Gary Kubiak doesn’t sound convinced is their quarterback of the future. And if he isn’t that guy, then why not give Keenum a fair shake?
Keenum did go undrafted last year, despite a record-setting college career at Houston. His lack of ideal size (6-foot-1), average arm strength and lack of mobility were key reasons behind him going undrafted, but he did enough in his college career to show why he deserves a chance. In four-plus seasons at Houston (a medical redshirt gave him an extra year of eligibility), he threw for more than 19,000 yards and 155 touchdowns while also setting the NCAA record for career completions. He also completed better than 69 percent of his passes and hit on a lot more deep balls than his so-so arm strength would lead you to believe.
All of those characteristics were on display for Kubiak and the Texans to see on Sunday, and he seemed to do enough to at least earn himself another start. Maybe he’s no better fit than Schaub to lead the Texans to a Super Bowl, but they already know what Schaub is and that’s not going to change. Keenum is still a bit of a mystery to them and has definite potential, although there’s no indication to what end.
It’s still a bit early to call an end to this Texans’ season, but they might want to consider what’s best for their future before proceeding. And at this point Keenum looks a lot more appealing than Schaub.