Case Keenum's been marginalized, dissed and all but outright dismissed since the end of last season. Even before Bill O'Brien walked through the doors, bringing his New England ways with him, it became almost universally assumed — by the Houston media at least — that Keenum suddenly had no chance to start.
Think again. For with two days of the NFL Draft complete, the Houston Texans still haven't added a quarterback. They outright snub Derek Carr, who many consider the best pure passer in the draft but also the guy with those pesky brother issues. They pass on chances to trade up for Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Maybe, just maybe, O'Brien thinks more of Keenum than all those doubters want to believe. O'Brien's had the chance to watch film on every one of Keenum's eight starts last season, to spend time with him in the meeting room, to see him at the board and on the field for a few practices.
Maybe it's just coincidence. The Texans could still trade for Patriots backup Ryan Mallett and go with a guy who has one career completion in four NFL attempts over the guy who threw for three touchdowns in the first half of a Sunday Nighter against the Indianapolis Colts.
Don't be so certain there's not something Keenum to this though. The Texans don't come close to reaching for a quarterback. They're certainly not acting like a team absolutely desperate for a new single caller. Instead, they work the plan of becoming bigger, stronger and faster on the lines, grabbing a hulking offensive lineman and a big tight end — and trading up into the third round to grab a nose tackle to add to that J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney defense.
Sharing the same genes — and maybe the same hand-me-down jeans — hardly means two prospects are interchangeable.
None of the Texans' four draft picks come in at under 265 pounds. "We've gotten bigger. We've gotten stronger. We've gotten tougher," general manager Rick Smith says.
O'Brien's obviously determined to have a much more powerful team, one that isn't pushed around like it so often was under Gary Kubiak. Whether he's really determined to have a new quarterback is still a much more open question.
Derek Carr's sitting right there for the Texans at the beginning of the second round Friday night.
Instead the Texans pick UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo. Su'a-Filo's a good story (the Eagle Scout left UCLA for two years after his freshman season to go on a Mormon mission) and more importantly, in the Texans' minds, a physical force. The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Su'a-Filo models his game after All-Pro Patriots guard Logan Mankins, which has to be sweet music to O'Brien's ears.
"He's physical," Su'a-Filo says of Mankins. "He's nasty. He comes off the ball trying to punish people."
The Carr Question
There's no doubt the Texans need some offensive line help. In truth, the franchise has been suffering on the line since it sent Eric Winston packing after the 2011 season. No one expected that cut to sting as much as it has. With Wade Smith now also gone, the offensive line needs an overhaul. Otherwise O'Brien's intricate offensive schemes will be ripped apart before they ever get going.
The "new" quarterback prospect just may be the guy everyone tried to dismiss.
If Su'a-Filo gives Arian Foster a little more space to operate, he's a valuable addition.
But is he the top talent that could have been taken with the first pick of the second round?
Three-time Super Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner loves Derek Carr. New York Giants legend Phil Simms loves Derek Carr. TV Quarterback Camp guru Jon Gruden loves Derek Carr.
Not drafting a guy because of who his brother is couldn't be more absurd. Joe DiMaggio turned out to be a lot different player than Dom DiMaggio. Blake Griffin's on an entirely different level than his older bro Taylor Griffin. Sharing the same genes — and maybe the same hand-me-down jeans — hardly means two prospects from the same family are interchangeable.
Derek Carr is his own man. No matter how hard Texans fans find it to see that.
The fact that Carr is close to his older brother, leaning on the former failed NFL quarterback for guidance, isn't some twisted red flag. It's a plus. Who shies away from a player with a strong family background?
Even if the Texans didn't rate Derek Carr worthy of the No. 33 pick completely on an evaluation of his own merits alone it comes across like a scared shy away. Truth is often lost in the NFL Draft.
The Ryan Mallett Dance?
With the first pick of the third round, the Texans take Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who NFL analyst Mike Mayock calls the last of the five top tier tight ends in the draft available. He's another physical player, one who models his game after New England game changer Rob Gronkowski.
O'Brien's obviously determined to have a much more powerful team. Whether he's really determined to have a new QB is still a much more open question.
Fiedorowicz didn't demonstrate anything close to Gronk's pass-catching skills at Iowa. But he believes he showed O'Brien enough during an individual workout at Iowa to convince the coach that he'll be an asset in the passing game too.
"I knew I did good in front of Coach O'Brien," Fiedorowicz says on a conference call. "He had me work on a lot of catching drills, hand-eye coordination drills and I think he saw I had passing skills. He seemed like he was excited."
Su'a-Filo is smart enough to be up on Houston, telling reporters at NRG Stadium that he can't wait to try Pappadeaux and Whataburger. It's hard not to like the guy. Fiedorowicz is equally personable. The nose tackle the Texans trade up for — Louis Nix, a 330-plus pound force from Notre Dame — is even more entertaining, dubbing himself Irish Chocolate.
But none of the three Friday additions can throw the football.
Smith comes right out and says the Texans have not talked to New England about trading for Mallett — albeit before the Patriots nab Garoppolo. This should make lovers of decent quarterback play happy. The Texans could also till take a more longshot quarterback prospect somewhere in the fourth to seventh round Saturday.
"I think there are still some good quarterbacks on the board," Smith says.
But none of this answers the big question of what O'Brien actually wants in his quarterback.
He's only given us generalities so far. And Ryan Fitzpatrick. Which is a scary start.
Unless Case Keenum's captured his interest. The "new" quarterback prospect just may be the guy everyone tried to dismiss. And you thought the draft was crazy?