Austin | Dallas | Houston
Case Keenum's Smiling Swag

Case Keenum's unusual smiling swagger earns Texans respect: Gary Kubiak is bemused, impressed

Enlarge
Slideshow
Case Keenum throwing Texans camp
Case Keenum is throwing the ball with more zip than many NFL general managers ever expected. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Case Keenum Texans smiling
If Case Keenum is playing football, he's probably smiling. It's a quirk that hasn't gone unnoticed by Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Case Keenum throwing Texans camp
Case Keenum Texans smiling
Case Keenum ear
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

It's not quite crying in baseball, but still . . . Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak doesn't seem quite sure what to make of all of Case Keenum's smiling in football.

"I’ve never seen a guy smile so much when he plays football," Kubiak says, clearly bemused by the whole development.

A smiling quarterback? Who has a smiling quarterback? Football's supposed to be a snarling, eyes bulging sport (see Brian Cushing), one where the intensity just drips off you.

And then, there's Case Keenum. Grinning. Keenum smiled wide as he shattered NCAA records at the University of Houston. And the happy look's back now that he is pushing for the Texans No. 2 quarterback job, already have come farther in his young NFL career than most of the so-called experts expected.

 "I’ve never seen a guy smile so much when he plays football." 

Keenum's emerged as the biggest story coming out of the Texans' first preseason game — even though rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins went up high to pluck a touchdown out of the air and nose tackle Earl Mitchell kept bursting into the Minnesota Vikings' backfield, and both figure to have much more of an impact on the Texans when the games count. Unless disaster strikes and Matt Schaub gets hurt.

Still it is Keenum's feet and moxie as much as his sterling stats (13 of 18 for 125 yards with at least three of his five incompletions dropped) that's captured the imagination of Texans fans. And a certain coach too.

"He’s just got a little swagger to him when he plays," Kubiak says. "And that’s the way he played in college. I mean, he’s very confident. Doesn’t get caught with the ball. As a coach, you call a bad play and he can make it a good one. That’s just what he can do."

On a night when one overhyped player full of conventional swagger (rookie safety D.J. Swearinger) showed how far away he really is, the man with smiling swag looked more than capable of being a future NFL difference maker.

Four of the questions in Kubiak's traditional day-after-the-game press conference are about Case Keenum, by far the most centered on any single player.

Of course, Kubiak believed in the undrafted Keenum far before most of Houston media members asking him the questions in an auditorium in the bowels of Reliant Stadium Saturday. Any of those ridiculous sports talk radio notions that Kubiak would be freaked out by a lot of attention being paid to the race for the Texans' No. 2 QB have proved to be laughable.

Instead the coach — a former NFL backup quarterback himself who knows how thankless the No. 2 job really can be — appears to be thoroughly enjoying the battle between T.J. Yates and Keenum. Yes, Gary Kubiak can handle it. This isn't his first rodeo.

 Four of the questions in Kubiak's traditional day-after-the-game press conference are about Case Keenum, by far the most centered on any single player. 

Not to mention the fact that you know you have a pretty darn good team if the No. 2 quarterback race is the most arresting story of training camp.

Keenum might come in second after Schaub in the Texans first preseason home game this Saturday night. With the emphasis on might. The guess here is that Kubiak will give Yates another game with the second teamers before making a switch.

The Texans coach is going to provide Keenum with chances. But Keenum will have to keep earning them too.

"What I’m trying to do is get him and T.J. in the exact same situations as players with pretty much equal reps," Kubiak says of the idea of elevating Keenum to No. 2 for the Dolphins Saturday night. "So that’s something that may be a topic this week.

"They will both continue to play a great deal. It’s a very good battle going on."

Even if one of them is battling with a big smile on.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address

HTX Good Eats 2014