Here is a link to my Sunday column about Matt Schaub. Sorry for posting it so late. I slept in until 9:30 this morning. A person has to do that from time to time. The full text of the column runs below:
Praise Raiders’ general manager Reggie McKenzie for aggressively deconstructing and then reconstructing his team. As part of the reconstruction phase, he traded for Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub, no longer desirable in Houston because of the joke factor.
Last season, Schaub became a joke in the National Football League by throwing a pick-six four games running, a pick six being an interception that the interceptor runs back for a touchdown. Schaub’s string of pick-sixes is a league record and a laugh riot. He was so bad the Texans benched him for a rookie.
So, did Reggie
McKenzie do right by getting Schaub?
Let’s proceed slowly on this, looking at Schaub and the Raiders from several points of view.
By agreeing to pay Schaub more than 10 big ones, as in millions, next season McKenzie is anointing this guy the starter. Forget Matt McGloin, Terrelle Pryor and Trent Edwards. Forget taking a quarterback with the fifth pick in the draft. Schaub is The Man.
Give McKenzie credit for introducing clarity at the quarterback spot, although it’s hard to ignore, in the past, McKenzie hasn’t exactly been a quarterback savant. He got Matt Flynn before last season, upped his salary, and Flynn promptly lost the starting job to Pryor in the preseason. McKenzie got rid of Flynn before the season ended. McKenzie drafted Tyler Wilson in the fourth round and cut him — Wilson was the highest pick cut from the 2013 draft.
We view McKenzie’s quarterback “vision” with a healthy skepticism, a skepticism he has earned.
That doesn’t mean Schaub is a crummy choice or he will fail. The league liked Schaub when he came out of Virginia in 2004. Even then, he handled life at the line of scrimmage brilliantly and was perceived as a high-intellect quarterback. He never was a scrambler or an improviser, but he could be a prototype pocket passer with a little bit of pocket movement when needed. One scout who worked the East Coast for the Broncos was euphoric about his decision-making and reported Schaub had more than an adequate arm.
Schaub proved this scout and the league right. For a time, he was a very good quarterback, especially in 2009.
The numbers please?
He threw 29 touchdowns and only 15 picks in 2009. Compare that to last season, his season in hell: 10 TDs, 14 interceptions.
In 2009, his passer rating was 98.6, a heck of a rating and the best of his career. He completed 67.9 percent of his passes, a heck of a percentage and the best of his career. He led the league in passing yards (4,770) and completions (396).
OK, enough with the numbers.
The Raiders obviously think — hope — they can rediscover the Schaub from 2009 and several good seasons after that. They obviously think — hope — last season’s Schaub, when he was the Pick-Six King, was an anomaly.
Right now, the answer is blowing in the wind.
Schaub can be a reasonable quarterback for the Raiders if the Raiders’ offense features a good running game, strong protection and receivers who can get open and make the catch. He is not a quarterback who can throw receivers open. Quarterbacks who can throw receivers open are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick. Schaub needs play action and deception and plenty of help. He cannot be a pass-first or pass-only quarterback. Way above his skill level.
On the Raiders he doesn’t have the receivers, although the addition of James Jones from Green Bay, Jones who earned his pedigree from Rodgers, will help. Let’s say, on a strictly provisional basis, Schaub has a chance to be decent. Decent is better than average. Decent is a B-minus. Schaub aspires to a B-minus. B-minus would be hallelujah material.
Now comes the big issue, the big concern about Schaub, the big reason Houston cut him loose.
His mind. Or to put the case in technical terms: Is Schaub freaked out of his skull?
Anyone who has the regrettable habit of throwing to the other guys and then watching the other guys catch the ball and run it in for a TD, well anyone in that situation can blow his gourd.
Schaub needs to put last season behind him.
He must compartmentalize what happened last season, as in shove the season in a strong box and throw it into San Francisco Bay. He must block out the negative and learn from what happened. Maybe it was Houston’s offense. Maybe he had a mechanical flaw. Maybe he was in a slump. Who knows?
He needs to work hard not to be haunted. Some can do this. Some can’t. We don’t know about Schaub. Johnny Unitas always said a quarterback must throw the ball with conviction. Does Schaub lack conviction? If he lacks, he can’t play. He will hesitate. He will throw tentative passes. He will get picked. Before he can lead the Raiders, he must lead himself.
There is a wider perspective to the Matt Schaub Story, and it involves McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen. They are hitching their careers to Schaub. They know this veteran is their last best chance. They cannot have a perpetual youth movement, and they’ve recently added a bunch of older players (Schaub will turn 33 before next season) for experience and leadership. Many contracts are short term — call them one-year leases.
If the Raiders don’t make significant improvement next season — define “significant” any way you want — McKenzie and Allen almost surely will be out, collecting their checks by mail.
So much depends upon Matt Schaub.
(For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.)